Dolly Parton partly funded Moderna Covid vaccine research

The country music icon’s $1m donation supported the latest breakthrough by Moderna and several research papers

It’s truly the greatest gift of all: a $1m donation by Dolly Parton to coronavirus vaccine research supported the development of the Moderna vaccine, which has shown a 95% protection rate from the virus in trials so far.

In April, Parton donated £800,000 to research after her friend Dr Naji Abumrad of the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee told her that they were making “some exciting advancements” in the search for a cure for the virus. Abumrad and Parton became friends in 2014 after the singer was involved in a car accident and treated at Vanderbilt.

Parton told the BBC’s The One Show: “I’m sure many, many millions of dollars from many people went into that [research fund] but I felt so proud to have been part of that little seed money that hopefully will grow into something great and help to heal this world – Lord knows we need it!”

The 74-year-old country music icon’s donation has also supported convalescent plasma study at Vanderbilt – treating infected people with the plasma of others carrying antibodies against the virus – as well as the development of several research papers pertaining to the virus.

Moderna has said it could potentially produce 1bn doses of the vaccine by the end of 2021 and is applying for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

It has already begun submitting data to the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA): the UK has secured an initial 5m doses of the new vaccine. Moderna’s breakthrough follows a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine showing an efficacy of 90%.

The Dolly Parton Covid-19 research fund is the latest example of Parton’s well-known philanthropy. Her Imagination Library gifts free books to children from birth until starting school in participating areas. She recently told Oprah Winfrey that she never had children “because I believe that God didn’t mean for me to have kids so everybody’s kids could be mine, so I could do things like the Imagination Library.”

In October she released her 47th solo album, A Holly Dolly Christmas – her third festive collection. Her seasonal musical, Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square, which stars Parton alongside Christine Baranski and Jenifer Lewis, premieres on Netflix on 22 November.

• This article was amended on 18 November 2020 to clarify that results of vaccine trials at this stage refer to “efficacy” – the performance of an intervention under ideal and controlled circumstances – not “effectiveness”, which describes performance under real-world conditions.


Laura Snapes

The GuardianTramp

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