Of course Dolly Parton helped fund the Moderna vaccine

November 18, 2020, 1:35 PM UTC
The 53rd Annual CMA Awards - Show
Dolly Parton performs onstage at the 53rd annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 13, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. The country legend donated money that went to early COVID vaccine research.
Mickey Bernal—WireImage/Getty Images

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Judy Shelton’s Fed nomination fails to advance, competitors bid for Simon & Schuster, and Dolly Parton does good. Have a good Wednesday.

The greatest gift of all. Last year, the New York Times deemed Dolly Parton the one thing “we can all agree on.” Indeed, the 74-year-old country legend had found a new following among a younger audience thanks to a podcast and a Netflix special. Her appeal seemed to span generations and political ideologies.

And this week she cemented her feel-good, bipartisan credentials by adding a new line to her bio: pandemic hero.

The title is, of course, exaggerated, but it’s true that the singer-songwriter had a hand in funding the Moderna vaccine that’s proven to be 94.5% effective in late-stage trials. Parton said in April that she’d donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University in Nashville after learning from a friend that researchers there were working on a COVID-19 vaccine. The gift, named the Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund, went toward early research by Dr. Mark Denison that helped produce the Moderna vaccine.

The U.S. government later invested $1 billion in the project as part of Operation Warp Speed, but Denison has said that Parton’s donation “helped us develop the test that we used to first show that the Moderna vaccine was giving people a good immune response that might protect them.”

Parton’s unexpected role in the development of a vaccine pleased Dolly fans to the point that there’s now a version of ‘Jolene’ reworked to feature ‘Vaccine’ bouncing around the Internet, thanks to linguist Gretchen McCulloch, author of Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, who tweeted out fitting lyrics. “Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vacciiiiiiiiiiiiiine I’m begging you, please go in my arm.”

Now McCulloch is suggesting another role for Parton: an ambassador for the vaccine, once it’s ready for distribution. Considering the current level of divisiveness, especially about the pandemic, if Parton doesn’t assume that task, whoever does is going to need Dolly Parton-level mass appeal.

Claire Zillman

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


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"I hope people will give themselves permission to do whatever they want this year."

-Ina Garten on Thanksgiving 

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