Basketball legend and health advocate Earvin “Magic” Johnson partnered with GSK Pharmaceuticals and YMCA to host community conversations about respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and spread awareness about new vaccines available for people over 60.
Johnson is hosting four events around the country and visited the Scottsdale/Valley of the Sun Family YMCA Friday, Sept. 29.
Johnson, now 64, was joined by Dr. Leonard Friedland and a survivor of RSV as part of GSK’s “Sideline RSV” campaign. RSV is a common and potentially serious respiratory virus that usually causes mild symptoms but can lead to hospitalization. According to Johnson, people typically think of RSV as a virus that only affects infants and young children, but older adults, especially those with underlying medical conditions, are also susceptible to RSV.
“I was unaware that older adults are one of the highest risk groups for severe RSV infection, no matter how healthy they feel,” Johnson said. “It’s important to stay up to date on potential health risks that come with aging, and if you are 60 and older, please talk to your doctor about what you learned today and share with others.”
According to a September 2023 health advisory from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 58,000-80,000 children under five and 60,000-160,000 adults over 60 are hospitalized because of RSV every year. Of that, 100-300 children under five and 6000-10,000 adults die from RSV each year.
RSV affects the lungs and breathing passages, and typical symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, congestion, headache and tiredness. RSV spreads when someone coughs or sneezes and can be transmitted by touching a contaminated surface before touching the eyes, nose or mouth.
This RSV season, there are vaccines for the first time to help prevention in people over 60. The health advocates from “Sideline RSV” encourage older adults to talk to their healthcare providers and pharmacists about either RSVPreF3 (Arexvy, GSK) or RSVpreF (Abrysvo, Pfizer) and make the best decision for their health.
There is also a new, long-acting product, nirsevimab (Beyfortus, Sanofi and AstraZeneca), that is available to protect infants and some young children at higher risk for severe RSV disease.
All three treatments are approved by the FDA and are recommended by the CDC. Prior to the vaccines, medical professionals could prescribe treatment for symptoms of RSV, like coughing and wheezing, but they couldn’t target the virus.
The vaccines are covered for people over 65 who are enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan, and adults aged 60-64 can get recommended vaccines for free through the affordable care act. The RSV vaccines are currently single dose vaccines, meaning you only need it once, and you can get it year-round.
More information about RSV can be found at cdc.gov/rsv/about/prevention.html, or visit sidelinersv.com to learn more about the campaign to “Sideline RSV.”