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Dolly Parton helped fund the groundbreaking COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna

Published Nov 17th, 2020 7:07PM EST
Image: Curtis Hilbun /

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  • Funding from country music icon Dolly Parton has been revealed to have made an impact on Moderna’s research for its groundbreaking COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Parton made a $1 million donation in April to Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center, intended to go toward coronavirus vaccine research.
  • In recent days, Moderna revealed that some of that funding supported its vaccine effort.

If you open the link to the preliminary report on Moderna’s groundbreaking COVID-19 vaccine — the one about which early research shows a 94.5% effectiveness rate in preventing the coronavirus infection — an unexpected name jumps out at you.

Towards the end of the report, at the part where credit is given to the support that made Moderna’s experimental vaccine possible, you see credit given to institutions like the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as well as Emory University, Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and then … wait, country singer Dolly Parton?

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Indeed, the report credits the Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund with having helped to make the vaccine possible. It stems from a $1 donation that Parton made to support COVID research at Vanderbilt University, in honor of her friend and professor of surgery at the university Dr. Naji Abumrad. And now we know that money was used in part to support Moderna’s effort, which means among other things that the iconic country singer of hits like Jolene and Islands in the Stream may end up helping to hasten the end of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 248,000 Americans to-date, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In terms of what all we know at this point about Moderna’s vaccine, in addition to its stunningly high effectiveness, vaccinations could start as soon as late December. That’s according to White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Parton, who’s a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, announced her $1 million gift to Vanderbilt University Medical Center with an Instagram post, which read: “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 toward research of the coronavirus for a cure,” by way of explaining her gift. She went on to encourage anyone else who’s able to likewise chip in with donations toward the overall research effort.

It’s certainly desperately needed. According to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins data, the seven-day average in the US of new COVID-19 cases has now topped 150,000. That’s up 30% over the previous week.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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