Ilana Diener holds her son, Hudson, 3, at an appointment for...

Ilana Diener holds her son, Hudson, 3, at an appointment for a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial in Commack in November 2021. (AP Photo/Emma H. Tobin) Credit: AP/Emma H. Tobin

For parents of infants, toddlers and preschoolers, the waiting can feel endless.

They’ve watched the COVID-19 vaccine rollout carefully, first with excitement and eagerness, as they and their older children were vaccinated. They’ve waited patiently, expectantly, through promise after promise that younger children under the age of 5 were next.

It’s coming, they’ve been told again and again. It’ll be soon. Just a few more months.

But the goalposts keep moving, and anticipation has waned.

Now, once again, there’s word that a vaccine for young children is on the horizon, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could approve one — or two — by June.

That’s good news, even if on a later timetable than many hoped. But it’s coming at an odd moment in the pandemic. Many families have started on a road back to “normal,” restrictions have lifted, and many parents have faced COVID head-on with some of their young, unvaccinated children getting sick, especially during the omicron wave.

That’s what happened to Manhasset mom Lily Chan. Chan, 45, has two daughters — one age 7, the other about to turn 3.

Chan’s 7-year-old was the first in her class to get vaccinated last year. But after the mask mandate and other school protocols were lifted earlier this year, she got COVID in early April. Soon, the entire family tested positive.

While Chan’s vaccinated daughter remained asymptomatic and “bouncing around," her younger, unvaccinated 2-year-old spiked a high fever for three frightening days.

“It was scary,” Chan said. “Every hour, I had to check on whether she was breathing properly.”

The family recovered but Chan still worries that a new variant could arise, that her youngest could get COVID again. She noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests waiting 90 days between getting COVID and receiving the vaccine. Beyond that deadline, she's ready to get her 2-year-old vaccinated as soon as it's approved. 

"I feel like I'd do it as soon as one is available," she said. "We need more jabs in arms … And you just don't know what's going to happen with the virus."

But parents are running low on patience. There have already been snags and delays in getting a shot for young children approved. While Moderna last week filed for emergency use authorization for its vaccine for children as young as six months, the FDA is waiting for more data to complete the application. Pfizer, meanwhile, is collecting and submitting data on a rolling basis. There's talk that federal regulators might wait to evaluate both applications together, to avoid approving one at a time. That's understandable, but it's also exasperating. And further delays won't help parents or kids. 

Safety and efficacy are key, of course, and so far, data shows the vaccines have been safe even for young patients, while regulators await additional clarity on efficacy. But while it's important to take the time to get this right, the ups and downs and the lack of clear messaging has led to frustration and confusion.

"The finish line kept moving and the clear information has never been there," fellow Manhasset parent Dana Dignam said this week. "Sometimes, it feels like they're totally ignoring you. I wish there was somebody advocating to say we need to get this done."

Parents themselves are advocating — and asking for help. The decision-makers would be wise to listen.

Columnist Randi F. Marshall's opinions are her own.