The unlikely story of how Dolly Parton helped to fund the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine

Dolly Parton performs on the Pyramid stage on Day 3 of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm on 19 June 2014. (Photo: Tabatha Fireman/Redferns via Getty Images)
Dolly Parton performs on the Pyramid stage on Day 3 of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm on 19 June 2014. (Photo: Tabatha Fireman/Redferns via Getty Images)
  • Like a story out of a Christmas feel-good movie Dolly Parton has come to save the day.
  • The 74-year-old country singer-songwriter donated $1 million towards Covid-19 research.
  • It was revealed on Tuesday that this contribution went towards the biotechnology firm Moderna which on Monday announced its coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective against Covid-19.

The year 2020 has not been filled with many feel-good stories.

But as this annus horribilis limps towards its end, comes a story befitting a Hallmark Christmas movie. Like any festive film, fans would know, every feel-good flick starts with some kind of tragedy.

In this case, a car crash and a visit to the hospital emergency room in 2013. American singer-songwriter Dolly Parton had been involved in her first car accident and although she wasn't badly injured, she paid a visit to the Vanderbilt University Medical Centre.

According to a report by Vanity Fair, it's here that the Jolene hitmaker met Dr Naji Abumrad, a Lebanese-American physician and surgeon.

The two instantly connected over a shared interest in all things science and similar backgrounds that saw them going from growing up poor to establishing successful career paths of their own.

Their friendship was not anything that would make headlines around the world, until biotechnology firm Moderna announced on Monday that "a preliminary analysis shows its experimental coronavirus vaccine is nearly 95% effective at preventing illness, including severe cases".

On Tuesday, it came to light that the much-loved singer had donated $1 million to Vanderbilt for coronavirus research in honour of her friend Abumrad. Vanderbilt partially funded Moderna's experimental vaccine.

In a report published on The New England Journal of Medicine's website, the Dolly Parton Covid-19 Research Fund is listed among the agencies and universities that funded the research to find a vaccine for the worldwide pandemic.

"Her work made it possible to expedite the science behind the testing. Without a doubt in my mind, her funding made the research towards the vaccine go 10 times faster than it would be without it," Abumrad is quoted as saying in The Washington Post

In a statement released in April, Jeff Balser, the dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said of Parton's contribution: "She cares so much about helping others and we are very grateful for her ongoing support. These funds will help us complete promising research that can benefit millions in their battle with the virus."

Appearing on The Today Show early on Tuesday morning - to promote her new book, album, and upcoming Netflix film - Parton was as surprised as everyone else when it was revealed her financial contribution in honour of a friend made a bigger difference than she could ever have imagined.

"I'm just happy that anything I do can help somebody else, and when I donated the money to the Covid fund, I just wanted to do good," she said, while thanking those working tirelessly to find a vaccine.

According to Business Insider, Moderna's experimental vaccine was highly effective at preventing Covid-19. The finding comes after a 30 000-person study compared volunteers who got a two-dose regimen of Moderna's shot to ones who got a placebo.

"The vaccine was shown to be 94.5% effective in a preliminary analysis. The announcement closely follows similar news from a rival vaccine programme by Pfizer and BioNTech, which touted late-stage success a week ago," Andrew Dunn from Business Insider wrote.

(Sources: Vanity Fair, Washington Post, Business Insider, Vanderbilt University Medical Centre, The New England Journal of Medicine) 

ALSO READ: This Netflix documentary on the life and career of Dolly Parton is worth the watch

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