In April this year, Dolly Parton contributed research funding to US biotech firm Moderna’s experimental vaccine that has this week announced is 94.5 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 based on interim data.
The singer contributed $1 million in donation to the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville which has helped support the development of the vaccine. A spokesperson from Vanderbilt said Parton’s “generous” gift was helping “several promising research initiatives”.
Announcing her donation on Instagram in April, Parton remarked: “My longtime friend Dr Naji Abumrad, who’s been involved in research at Vanderbilt for many years, informed me that they were making some exciting advancements towards that research of the coronavirus for a cure. I am making a donation of $1 million to Vanderbilt towards that research and to encourage people that can afford it to make donations.”
That month, The Guardian reported that the 74-year old’s $1 million also went into a number of research papers, including a convalescent plasma study, that treated coronavirus sufferers with the plasma of people carrying antibodies against COVID-19.
The Dolly Parton Covid-19 Research Fund was listed as one the funders in an initial report into Moderna’s vaccine which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this month. According to early data, Moderna’s vaccine is nearly 95 percent effective and highly effective in stopping people getting ill and worked across all age groups.
Researchers announced that a separate preliminary trial last week declared the vaccine to be 90 percent effective at treating the virus which has so far claimed more than 249,000 lives in the US and 1.3 million people globally.
Parton told NBC’s Today show, “I’m just happy that anything I do can help somebody else,” she said. “Let’s just hope we find a cure real soon.”
Parton has publicly declared she is “very honoured and proud” to contribute to research into one of the leading Covid-19 vaccines across the world. Overnight, she spoke on BBC One’s The One Show, saying she was “so excited” to hear the news and that she was “sure many millions of dollars from many people went into that.”
“I just felt so proud to have been part of that little seed money that will hopefully grow into something great and help to heal this world. I’m a very proud girl today to know I had anything at all to do with something that’s going to help us through this crazy pandemic.”
Appearing on NBC’s Today Show, the star added: “What better time right now, we need this. I felt like this was the time for me to open my heart and my hand, and try to help.”
Cambridge, Massachusetts based firm Moderna, along with Pfizer, are the only two US-companies which have reported promising vaccine results, anticipating authorisation for emergency use as early as December this year.
Moderna’s vaccine, which began trials back in March, can be stored at normal fridge temperatures that ought to ease distribution logistics. Moderna’s President Stephen Hoge said in a telephone interview with SBS “We are going to have a vaccine that can stop COVID-19.”
Hoge told The Associated Press earlier this week, “That should give us all hope that actually a vaccine is going to be able to stop this pandemic and hopefully get us back to our lives. It won’t be Moderna alone that solves this problem. It’s going to require many vaccines” to meet the global demand.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center spokesperson John Howser said Parton’s donation is supporting a plasma study and research involving antibody therapies.
“Her gift provided support for a pilot convalescent plasma study that one of our researchers was able to successfully complete,” Howser told BBC News.
“Funds from Dolly’s gift are also supporting very promising research into monoclonal antibodies that act as a temporary vaccine for Covid. Two of these antibodies are now being tested by a global pharmaceutical firm.”
Parton has a long history of philanthropy and charity. Her Dollywood Foundation, which she began in 1986, has supported numerous child literary initiatives. She has also given to and raised money for wildlife and HIV/Aids charities, including American Eagle Foundation, Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes, Save The Music Foundation and Cancer Research UK.
On December 10, Parton will be honoured with the Hitmaker Award at the 15th annual Billboard’s Women in Music event which will be live streamed. Parton will be recognized for her contribution toward impacting the culture, inspiring female songwriters, and writing just as many hits as her male counterparts.
Overnight, Parton has had her famous song “Jolene” transformed by Northeastern University associate English professor Ryan Cordell, who recorded a version renamed “Vaccine,” with different lyrics;
“Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine/ I’m begging of you, please go in my arm/ Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine/ Please just keep me safe from COVID harm,” Cordell sung in a video he posted on Twitter.
The lyrics were written by linguist and author Gretchen McCulloch. Cordell told The Boston Globe yesterday that he “loves that song.”
“I love Dolly Parton. I And I don’t know — I was inspired, so I went and grabbed my guitar.”
Photo: DAVID MCCLISTER / REDUX