On a cold and rainy Sunday in December, 5-year-old Yousef Lambaz was in quite a sunny mood. His brown eyes sparkled from behind his black-rimmed glasses and he smiled nervously as he sat next to his 9-year-old twin brothers, Zach and Zade.

All three boys lounged in the immunization room at the Walgreens in Elgin, Illinois, where their mom, Ameira, has worked as the pharmacy manager since 2016. She has worked for Walgreens since 2006. The boys’ dad, Saad, was also on hand for this special day.

On this Sunday, all three brothers would receive their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, meaning the entire family will be completely vaccinated before the new year.

Wearing matching outer space masks with little green aliens, the boys talked about what finally being vaccinated meant to them.

Yousef brushed off any nervousness about receiving his second shot—Ameira says he was very brave when he received his first dose. The reason for Yousef’s excitement about becoming fully vaccinated was simple yet heartfelt: “To protect my family and me.”

For Yousef’s brother Zade, the desire to be fully vaccinated stemmed from a longing for how things used to be.

“I don’t like COVID at all,” Zade says. “I want school to go back to normal.”

“Me, too,” Ameira says.

Ameira shares that the school Zade and Zach attend just canceled a Grandparents Day fundraising event at a movie theater three hours before it was supposed to begin because of a COVID-19 case. The case was an asymptomatic one that may not have been caught had the school not conducted weekly PCR tests for all students and staff.

“The kids were devastated. They were looking forward to it,” Ameira says. “I think, mentally, it’s a lot harder for kids to be in school. We try to talk about those challenges at home and that everything they’re going through is temporary, but it’s still difficult.”

Walgreens pharmacist, her family and intern
From left: Walgreens pharmacy intern Shazia Najeeb administered COVID shots to Zach, Zade and Yousef, who are pharmacy manager Ameira Lambaz’s three children.

Zade’s twin brother Zach was not looking forward to his shot because he says the first one hurt. Zade disagreed, saying his didn’t hurt at all. At least after this shot, all three boys would receive treat bags with crayons, coloring pages and Tootsie Pops that had been donated to Chicagoland Walgreens locations. 

But Zach would still go through with getting his second dose, all because he says he wants to “protect his community.”

The shots were administered by Shazia Najeeb, who is part of Ameira’s other family: her team at Walgreens. A student at Benedictine University, Najeeb works as a pharmacy intern and has already secured a spot at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, where she’ll enroll once she finishes her undergraduate work. 

The mutual respect and affection between the colleagues is clear: Ameira says Najeeb’s help has been critical to their pharmacy while Najeeb says Ameira’s support for her goal of becoming a doctor is invaluable.

“I’ve learned so much from her, especially about different kinds of medications,” Shazia says.

Now that the whole Lambaz family is fully vaccinated, they’re looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends and maybe doing some travel. 

“We haven’t had a real family vacation since the lockdown,” Ameira says. 

So what’s Zade’s dream destination? 

“Dubai,” he says.

“Like in the Emirates?” dad Saad asks.

“I didn’t know he knew where Dubai was!” Ameira says with a laugh.

After receiving their shots, the boys showed off the Walgreens bandages on their arms and the treat bags they’d be taking with them. Their dad would drive them home so mom could work her shift.

For the boys’ parents, having vaccinated children gives them some peace of mind.

“I like to compare the vaccine to wearing a seatbelt. It’s not like it will protect you 100% of the time, but it does offer protection,” Ameira says. “It feels good that my kids will have that safeguard, just in case.”