Boy, 12, who lost father to COVID-19 had one birthday request: 'He was always saying it'

Gavin with his family, including his father.
Gavin with his family, including his father. Photo: NJ.com

If Gavin Roberts could have one wish come true for his 12th birthday, it would no doubt be to spend the day with his father. But, given that isn't a possibility following his dad's death from COVID-19, the US boy chose to honour his dad in the most useful way he could - by getting a coronavirus vaccine.  

Gavin's father, Charles, was a police officer and first responder from the US state of New Jersey, who prioritised his health and took the virus seriously, but nonetheless contracted the virus.

He collapsed at home from COVID-19 on April 21 and passed away three weeks later.

12yo Gavin wanted only the vaccine for his birthday after his father tragically passed from COVID-19 earlier in the year.
12yo Gavin wanted only the vaccine for his birthday after his father tragically passed from COVID-19 earlier in the year. Photo: WNBC

This spurred Gavin's decision to protect himself from the virus and get the vaccine as soon as he turned of age.

In the US, around 54 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics analysis of CDC data. Pfizer and BioNTech also announced earlier this week that their two-dose COVID-19 vaccine was safe for children aged 5-11, exhibiting "robust antibody response".

"I kept asking him what he wanted for his birthday," said Gavin's mother, Alice Roberts. "He was always saying it's the vaccine, we're going to get that."

Alice, an elementary school teacher, has witnessed children suffering from the Delta variant as school re-open without vaccinations for their young students.

"The primary argument I've heard from anti-vaxxers/people against 'mandates' is 'mind your own business.' But it becomes all of our business when our lives are inconvenienced and dictated by those who choose to not vaccinate," she said in an opinion piece published to NJ.com

She and her two older daughters got vaccinated as soon as they were eligible, and hope that Gavin's determination shows people the real-life effects of this disease.

"By seeing us, hopefully it personalises it for people and it's a real thing and it really happened to us," Alice told NBC New York, "We're not paid actors. It really happened and it can happen to anyone.

"If we can turn a really sad, horrible moment in our lives into something that can help people we want to do that. We see the only way out of this pandemic is to get as many vaccinated as possible."