3 questions for Magic Johnson on why he's getting the RSV vaccine

3 questions for Magic Johnson on why he's getting the RSV vaccine
Earvin "Magic" Johnson is known for his impact both on and off the basketball court, as the former NBA superstar shattered stigmas surrounding HIV when he disclosed that he was HIV-positive in 1991. Now he's continuing his work in health care initiatives with Sideline RSV, a GSK partnership focused on informing people 60 and older of their risk to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and speaking to the importance of getting vaccinated.

"I announced [my] HIV 32 years ago, so health and wellness is a part of my life," Johnson, 64, tells Yahoo Life. "From playing sports, it was a part, and now after I've retired, it's definitely a big part of my life. And this fits in my wheelhouse."

Here, Johnson answers three questions from Yahoo Life about his knowledge of RSV and why he will be getting vaccinated against it.

When did you first hear about RSV?
"It wasn't until I partnered with GSK and one of their doctors educated me on RSV," says Johnson of his work on the Sideline RSV campaign. "I wouldn't have known, so this has been good for me just to team up with them."

Although RSV is far from new, last year's surge in cases among children, specifically, brought newfound attention to the illness and the risk that it places on babies. Anyone can get the respiratory illness, but the other group most at risk is those 60 and over.

"The most important thing is having the information and the knowledge of RSV," says Johnson, noting statistics that he's learned about the 177,000 people 65 and over who are hospitalized for RSV yearly, and the 14,000 of those cases that might result in death.

Why is it important for you to use your platform for this?
"I'm 64 years old, so I think that's part of the reason why," says Johnson. "I care about not only my health, but also about other people. That's why I've always been going around trying to educate people on, you know, proper diet, exercising, making sure that you take care of yourself."

That message, he explains, goes for people of all ages.

"Being young, listen, make sure you go out and get your physicals and do what you're supposed to do, but also take your parents," he says. "Make sure you educate yourself about RSV so you can talk to your parents or your grandparents about it and then take them to their doctor, take them to their health care provider, take them to the pharmacist.

"It's very important for young people to understand that their parents need them more than ever right now, their grandparents need them more than ever right now. … I had to take my own parents to the doctor," he continues.

How do you make decisions about getting vaccinated?
"If there's a new vaccination coming out, my wife, Cookie, and I want to get it. I'm going to get vaccinated for RSV, like you get vaccinated for COVID, the shingles, the flu shot, on and on and on. I do them all," he says.

The first FDA-approved RSV vaccine for adults 60 and over was announced in May (shortly followed by one for babies and children in July), making it new for this RSV season.

"I'm definitely gonna get it because I want to give myself every chance possible to be healthy, and to make sure that I have a good winter, to make sure that I can live a long time," says Johnson.

What an expert says
What is RSV?
Respiratory syncytial virus is a common respiratory infection that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was discovered in 1956 and is one of the most common causes of childhood illness, as all children can be expected to get it before the age of 2. The virus can have an acute impact on the lungs, Dr. Pedro Piedra, professor of molecular biology, microbiology and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life, causing coughing, wheezing, fever and runny nose. RSV can also have long-term complications.

Who is at risk?
"Everyone is susceptible to this virus," Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Yahoo Life. "However, risk factors for severe disease include being very young, very old or having comorbid conditions, such as COPD, asthma, congestive heart failure, diabetes, immunosuppression and any chronic heart and lung disease."

It targets the "extreme of life," Piedra says, as infants deal with "immune naiveness" and older adults see their immune systems become less robust and unable to fight off such infections.

How can adults 60 and over protect themselves?
"People can proactively protect themselves against this virus by receiving the vaccine," says Adalja. "The easiest way to get the vaccine is to go to a drugstore where vaccines are readily available."

Piedra adds that it's best to address the risk of RSV while healthy.

"What you want to do is to prevent the consequences or the complications associated with these types of respiratory viral infections. And for the first time, we have vaccines against three major respiratory viruses — RSV, COVID and the flu — that tend to circulate at the same time," he explains. "The healthier you can stay, the better that body is able to handle [a breakthrough infection]."

Piedra adds: "Normally, older folks are more proactive. So if you look at vaccination coverage in general, especially influenza, COVID, you will see that older folks tend to have higher coverage of vaccines to protect themselves."

Source: www.yahoo.com
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