GLEN RIDGE, New Jersey (WABC) -- A young boy in New Jersey only wanted one thing for his 12th birthday after his father died from COVID last year.
Gavin Roberts is just 12 years old, but he knows more than any scientist about what COVID can do. He lost his dad to it.
"My dad was kind of like my best friend in a way, he was always my baseball coach, soccer coach and he was always there at my hockey games even when he as working or on job, he'd always come to the rink, tie my skates and watch me play," Roberts said.
Rob Roberts was just 45 years old, healthy, a father of three and a beloved Glenn Ridge police officer.
The vaccine didn't yet exist when he got sick last April, and he died after contracting the virus.
Gavin Roberts wasn't old enough for the vaccine when it came out. But this summer, he turned 12.
He didn't want a bike or a new phone. All he wanted for his birthday was the vaccine.
"I really wanted it to be on my birthday, and I didn't want it any time after -- I just wanted it there on my birthday," he said. "I wasn't scared one bit and I really didn't have a doubt in my mind."
It's what his dad would have done. Maybe not for himself.
"He just always helped the community and I felt like it was a way to honor him," Gavin's sister Natalie Roberts said.
She got the vaccine as soon as she could too. But just 59% of children 12 to 17 in New Jersey, have gotten the vaccine, even as cases of pediatric COVID rise in the country and the number of hospitalized children rise.
In New Jersey schools, 66 children have tested positive in recent days. Vaccines are accepted for so many other potentially fatal diseases.
"For children to attend elementary school they need to be vaccinated against chicken pox, polio, hepatitis B, measles, mumps and whooping cough to protect their health," New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.
Gavin Roberts says parents should let their kids who are eligible, add the COVID vaccine to the list.
"It protects you from something really horrible," he said.
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