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Too few getting flu shots

Despite widespread concern that the flu was hitting children hard last winter, a government report released Thursday found only 4.4 percent of toddlers are getting recommended vaccinations against the virus.

Officials are pushing for a better vaccination rate this flu season, despite delays in shipping serum from one supplier that might keep some doctors and clinics from giving shots to everyone who needs them until late October.

Dr. Keiji Fukuda, chief flu epidemiologist for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that of the 150 children confirmed to have died from the flu last season, 135 were in risk groups for which the shots were recommended _ "but only five (of those at higher risk) were adequately vaccinated against the flu."

The CDC study was based on surveys done during the 2002-03 season. It found only 7.4 percent of children ages 6 to 23 months got one of the two recommended doses of flu vaccine. The survey also found just 4.4 percent got the two doses, at least four weeks apart, needed to properly boost the immune response in children that age.

House approves bill to protect pledge wording

WASHINGTON _ The House voted Thursday to strip the Supreme Court and lower federal courts of their power to hear cases concerning the wording or recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Pledge Protection Act was adopted 247-173, with support from 213 Republicans and 34 Democrats. Voting against it were 166 Democrats, six Republicans and one independent. West-central Florida Republicans voted yes, while Rep. Jim Davis, D-Tampa, voted no.

During a short but emotional debate, supporters stressed their desire to keep "under God" in the pledge while opponents stressed their support for an "indivisible" nation with the same set of constitutional protections for all citizens.

The pledge protection bill is expected to die in the Senate, where a companion bill has yet to have a hearing.

National Guard will miss recruiting goal this year

WASHINGTON _ The Army National Guard will fall 5,000 soldiers short of its recruiting goal this year, in part because fewer in the active-duty force are switching to part-time service, knowing how frequently Guard units are being dispatched to war zones, the Guard's top general, Army Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, said Thursday.

It will be the first time since 1994 that the Guard has missed its sign-up goal.

Survey: Most parents want more limits on TV

WASHINGTON _ Nearly two-thirds of parents favor government regulations to limit the sexual and violent content of prime-time television programs, according to a survey released Thursday.

The Federal Communications Commission and the entertainment media have worked to keep children from viewing "indecent" programming by setting up a ratings system and requiring most televisions to include a "V-chip" that lets parents block undesirable shows.

But the study by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, which surveyed parents of children aged 2 to 17, found that only 15 percent of parents have used the V-chip, and only half of parents use the ratings to guide their children's TV viewing.

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