GSK and Former NBA Star Magic Johnson Team Up to “Sideline RSV”


The British pharma giant has teamed up with Johnson for a promotional campaign as they approach the finish line of an RSV vaccine.

The race to find a comprehensive RSV treatment has been widely documented. Pfizer1 and GSK are both developing their own vaccine and appear close to the FDA finish line; according to NBC news, “Monoclonal antibody injection from Sanofi and AstraZeneca is next in line for FDA approval” as well2.

In the meantime, pharmacutical company GSK has brought a familiar face on board to raise awareness of RSV in older adults and instill into the public how important a vaccine will be once it becomes available; NBA Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson.

“My health is a top priority, yet like so many others, I was unaware that older adults are one of the highest risk groups for severe RSV infection, no matter how healthy they feel,” said Johnson in a press release from GSK.3

Now 63 years old, “Johnson will help spark important conversations and help educate around the risks of RSV among older adults. He has spent more than 30 years as a passionate public health advocate and it is his personal mission to empower others to become more educated about their health,” the release reads.

This is certainly not the first time Johnson has been in headlines for off-court health matters. On November 7, 1991, while part of the Los Angeles Lakers, Johnson announced he was HIV-positive—essentially ending his basketball career, but in the process turning him into an important figure in the HIV conversation. Johnson assisted a shift in public perception and treatment of the disease, a fight still ongoing to this day.4

“Having a spokesperson who's passionate about health and wellness is a way to grab people's attention and say, ‘okay, that somebody that I'm interested in hearing from, somebody that I trust,’ who in this situation also is very active in working in underrepresented communities, communities of color,” said GSK VP Leonard Friedland. “[Magic Johnson] is somebody that is just perfect for this.”

Johnson also announced his partnership with GSK via Instagram, where he posted a video stating that his “Mission in life is to empower older adults to be their own health advocates by putting their health first,” and asked his followers to “Know your risk to help sideline RSV.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control,5RSV causes over 2 million outpatient visits per year in children younger than 5, and over 150,000 hospitalizations in adults over 65 years old. And while RSV is not a novel virus, the CDC also acknowledges that its seasonal pattern has “been disrupted since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic early in 2020” which has in turn led to a wider public knowledge of RSV and its impacts.


1. Action date set for Pfizer RSC vaccine candidate. Drug Topics. February 24, 2023,

2. The race to an RSV vaccine is nearly over, decades after the first attempt. NBC News. February 28, 2023. Accessed March 24, 2023.

3. GSK and Earvin “Magic” Johnson Partner to Raise Awareness of Risk of RSV in Older Adults. Press release. March 14, 2023.

4. Magic Johnson’s HIV Disclosure Helped to Shatter Stigmas. But 30 Years Later, Disparities in Treatment Remain. Time Magazine. Novemeber 4, 2021.

5. RSV Surveillance And Research. Center for Disease Control. Accessed March 24, 2023.,younger%20than%205%20years%20old.&text=58%2C000%2D80%2C000%20hospitalizations%20among%20children%20younger%20than%205%20years%20old.&text=60%2C000%2D160%2C000%20hospitalizations%20among%20adults%2065%20years%20and%20older.

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