A Love Island beauty and hunky TV doctor are throwing their weight behind a campaign to persuade older teenagers to get a Covid-19 vaccine.
Fifth-year medical student Priya Gopaldas, who appeared in the most recent series of the reality show, is joining forces with Dr Emeka Okorocha, of BBC3’s Junior Doctors: Blood, Sweat And Tears fame.
The pair star in a new film where they answer vaccine questions from students aged 16 to 17, and emphasise that a coronavirus jab is the best way to prevent getting seriously ill with the disease.
Dr Okorocha, who has a huge following on his Instagram account where he regularly posts images of his toned physique, also addresses vaccine safety and fears over side effects.
Research has shown these two issues are the primary drivers of vaccine hesitancy among 16 to 17 year-olds, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
The latest stats show around 60% of this age group have received their first dose of the vaccine in the five weeks since they were first offered a jab.
Dr Okorocha also uses the film to highlight how Covid-19 can seriously affect anyone, regardless of their age.
“It is brilliant to see how many people aged 16-17 have already come forward to protect themselves by getting a jab,” he said.
“It was great to join Priya to answer questions from students to reiterate the safety and effectiveness of the life-saving vaccines.”
Dr Okorocha added: “A lot of young people previously felt invincible to the virus, but as an A&E doctor working throughout the height of the pandemic, I saw my fair share of healthy young adults suffering badly from Covid-19.
“Vaccines not only protect you but they also mean you’re less likely to pass the virus on to elderly family members.”
Ms Gopaldas, a student at University College London (UCL), was on the front line during the darkest days of the pandemic early this year.
She stepped in to support doctors at University College Hospital, working 12-hour night shifts in full personal protective equipment.
In a post on UCL’s website, she said that on her first shift she had been “shocked to see how ill the patients were”.
She added: “Most patients were intubated, ventilated and sedated, needing round-the-clock monitoring and care.
“I was also surprised to learn that UCLH had over 200 Covid positive patients of all ages and ethnicities.”
Discussing the vaccine drive, Ms Gopaldas said: “This summer has already been so much better than last year – and I’m not just talking about my Love Island experience.
“We’ve been able to travel, go out with mates and finally go back to the places we love. No one wants to miss out on those upcoming special moments.”
She added: “Halloween parties, proms, trips to the theatre, family gatherings. Getting the jab now means you won’t miss out on all the things that matter this autumn.”
An estimated 123,000 lives have been saved in the UK due to the vaccine, and 230,000 hospital admissions, according to DHSC data.
A survey of 2,000 16 to 17-year-olds found 47% agreed that the main reason to get a jab was to protect friends and family members, while 34% said it was to avoid missing school or college.
It found 79% of those who have had a jab, have one booked or intend to book one, feel positive about it.
Just 8% of those surveyed said they did not intend to get the vaccine at all.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “It has been great to see the enthusiasm of thousands of youngsters in coming forward to get the vital protection of our life-saving vaccines.
“Every vaccine given is another brick in our wall of defence against the virus – with the vaccines already saving more than 123,000 lives and preventing more than 230,000 hospitalisations.
“I’d urge everyone to have their vaccine as soon as possible – it is the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones and your family.”
Those aged 16 to 17 can book a vaccine via their GP or by visiting their nearest walk-in centre.