A panel that advises government health officials said Wednesday the flu vaccine nasal spray is safe for children as young as 2.

That's a change from current government advice, which recommends the FluMist spray only for healthy people ages 5 to 49. Traditional shots have been recommended for children younger than 5.

But recent studies have shown FluMist, made by Maryland-based MedImmune, to be safe and effective in kids as young as 2. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month approved its use for that age group.

On Wednesday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which advises government health officials, recommended FluMist's use for younger children who are healthy. Committee members said children with a history of asthma or wheezing should opt for a shot.

Recommendations by the panel usually are accepted by U.S. health officials, and they influence insurance companies' decisions on vaccination coverage. The committee also voted that a government program that pays for vaccines extend its FluMist coverage to the younger age group, meaning millions of added children will now be eligible for FluMist doses.

— Associated Press