On Sunday, Gavin Roberts turned 12, and instead of requesting video games or a smartphone, he had just one big item on his birthday wish list. "I kept asking him what he wanted," mom Alice Roberts tells NBC New York. "He was always saying it's the vaccine, we're going to get that." And that's exactly what the New Jersey boy received, in Pfizer version, as soon as he reached the age of eligibility over the weekend, in honor of his dad, Charles "Rob" Roberts, who died of COVID in May 2020 at the age of 45, per NBC News.
In an op-ed for NJ.com, Roberts writes that her husband, a Glen Ridge police officer, caught COVID while at work. "He collapsed in our house when his heart stopped," she notes of that day in April 2020. "The kids and I heard the thud." Charles Roberts—who was in good health and took the virus "very seriously," his wife tells NBC—was hospitalized for three weeks. He died on May 11, 2020, after suffering severe oxygen loss to the brain and his family took him off life support, per the Washington Post.
Alice Roberts, an elementary school teacher, notes that, at the time of her husband's illness, there wasn't yet a vaccine and tests were hard to find. As soon as she and Gavin's older sisters were eligible—the FDA approved the vaccine for kids 12 and over in May—they got vaccinated, but Gavin remained out of the vaccine loop. Roberts says she kept him away from sleepovers and traveling with his hockey team, and that through it all, a "wise beyond his 11 years" Gavin handled it like a champ.
Asked how he felt after getting his first shot on Sunday, Gavin replied: "Relieved," adding to WABC that "I wasn't scared one bit." He remembers his dad as "kind of like my best friend," and his mom hopes their story will inspire others to get vaccinated. "If a child can see with clarity ... that health is more important than anything material, then I don't understand what’s holding people up," she tells the Post. Gavin's family threw him a mini-celebration in which they dined outside on chicken wings and bestowed him with candy, baseball gear, and a bike, but "safety, Gavin said, was still the greatest gift," per the Post. (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)