LONDON: Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, which is awaiting Food and Drug Administration approval of a vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus, has enlisted NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson for a campaign promoting awareness of the risks associated with the virus.
An FDA advisory panel recommended approval of the GSK vaccine this month. The agency estimates that the virus is associated with between 6,000 and 10,000 deaths each year in people aged 65 and older.
“[Johnson has] been a real passionate public-health advocate in his business dealings as an entrepreneur, in the work that he does on his social media channels,” said Dr. Len Friedland, VP and director scientific affairs and public health at GSK Vaccines. “A common theme is his passion for keeping people healthy.”
The Sideline RSV campaign spot features Johnson walking down a darkened hallway toward a basketball court as he says, “I make my health a priority, and I'm passionate about helping others to do the same.”
“I teamed up with GSK to help bring education and awareness around a common contagious virus called RSV. Understanding how to help protect yourself against the virus is important,” Johnson says.
GSK is one of a number of pharmaceutical companies seeking approval of vaccines or treatments for the virus. Reuters reported that GSK expects to launch the vaccine this year.
When asked what role Johnson’s advocacy around HIV played in the company’s decision to partner with him, Friedland said, “His personal past health issues, they don't play a factor here at all.”
“What does play a factor though, is that the campaign is called Sideline RSV, and that is related to a basketball analogy,” Friedland added. We want to take the disease “away from the center and move it to the side so it’s not interfering with people’s ability to live their lives.”
As part of the campaign, Johnson will also participate in a satellite media tour.