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12-year-old boy gets vaccine for birthday after dad died from COVID-19 last year

Charles "Rob" Roberts, a Glen Ridge police officer and the 12-year-old boy's father, died of COVID-19 last May. He was 45.

For his 12th birthday, Gavin Roberts only had one request: get vaccinated against the coronavirus that killed his dad last year. So when he reached the legal age to get the shot on Sunday, his wish was finally granted.

Alice Roberts, Gavin's mother, told NBC New York that her son's decision was strongly influenced by his dad's death early in the pandemic.

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

Charles "Rob" Roberts, a Glen Ridge police officer and Gavin's father, died of COVID-19 on May 11, three weeks after he collapsed in his home in late April, Alice wrote in a column published on NJ.com Sunday. He was 45.

Alice said her husband was in good health and took the virus "very seriously," but at the time of his infection, COVID-19 testing was sparse and vaccines weren't available.

Gavin is one of more than 467 million people who have been given a vaccine dose in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Around 12.7 million children under the age of 18, or around 54 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds, have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics analysis of CDC data as of Sept. 15.

Pfizer and BioNTech announced Monday that the companies' two-dose COVID-19 vaccine was safe and showed a "robust" antibody response in children ages 5 to 11 as COVID-19 cases have surged in the U.S. in recent months.

Alice, an elementary school teacher who is also vaccinated, said she hopes her son and his story will encourage others to follow suit and prevent further tragedy.

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

She added: "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."

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This story first appeared on NBCNews.com.