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Seasonal flu shots are making an early appearance in pediatric offices this year thanks to the H1N1 virus and vaccine.

The seasonal flu vaccines are available now - which is slightly earlier than usual - because the H1N1 vaccine likely will be available as early as mid-October, said Dr. Ken Ashley, a pediatrician and medical director of Sutter Medical Group,

"We would like to separate these slightly to allow the (H1N1) vaccine to provide better protection from the virus," Ashley said in an e-mail.

Seasonal flu vaccines are recommended for children ages 6 months to 18 years old.

Doctors also recommend that children ages 6 months and older be given the H1N1 vaccine, which is a two-part vaccination given one month apart, he said.

Pregnant women, parents of children less than 6 months old and children will be among those first in line to receive the H1N1 vaccine. Other target groups include healthcare and emergency medical workers, people between 6 months and 24 years old and people between 25 and 64 who are at higher risk due to chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ashley said the H1N1 vaccine, like the seasonal flu vaccine, isn't a panacea.

"This vaccine, as with most vaccines, decreases the likelihood, although does not guarantee you will not get the virus," he said. "If you do the virus after the vaccine, it is often less severe."

For more information about the H1N1 virus and vaccine, click on the CDC's flu widget below.

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