Dolly Parton – icon and legend – is the force behind that coronavirus vaccine

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Kayleigh Dray
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Dolly Parton

“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,” says Dolly Parton.

Updated on 18 November: Earlier this year, Instagram was flooded by celebrities “doing their bit” during the coronavirus pandemic. Dolly Parton, however, decided to shake up our feeds in a big way.

That’s right: rather than share self-care tips or an uplifting musical cover, the award-winning singer decided to put her money where her mouth is and make an eye-watering donation to medical research.

Addressing her 3.1 million followers, Parton explained that she donated $1million (£807,086) to research carried out by Vanderbilt, after learning they are making some “exciting advancements” to treating coronavirus.

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“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 research of the coronavirus for a cure,” Parton explained.

“So I am making a donation of $1million to Vanderbilt towards that research and to encourage people that can afford it to make donations.”

Check it out:

Now, it’s been confirmed that Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville was one of the trial sites for the Moderna vaccine, which is nearly 95% effective according to early data.

Speaking on BBC One’s The One Show on Tuesday 17 November, Parton said she was “so excited” to hear the news.

“I’m sure many millions of dollars from many people went into that,” she told co-presenters Alex Jones and Jermaine Jenas.

“But 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.”

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“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,” Parton added.

A Vanderbilt spokesperson said Parton’s “generous” gift was helping “several promising research initiatives”.

A portion of the singer’s money went towards funding an early stage trial of the Moderna vaccine.

As reported on 2 April: Parton’s OG post received well over 400,000 likes in under 24 hours, not to mention racked up some serious praise from her fans and celebrity pals.

“Dolly, you never cease to amaze me with your generosity and your incredible spirit,” commented Reese Witherspoon.

Tess Holliday dubbed Parton an “actual angel” – a sentiment which was echoed by Goldie Hawn and Kacey Musgraves. And plenty of Parton’s fans took up the cry that their favourite singer should be named president in 2020, too.

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Of course, Parton is not the first to donate – and we hope she won’t be the last, either. 

Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds have donated $1m to help provide food for older people and low-income families. Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF) has donated $5m (£4.2m) towards organisations in the US and around the world. And Angelina Jolie has donated $1m (£843,500) to No Kid Hungry, which will provide meals for children from low-income families across the US while schools are closed.

Here in the UK, meanwhile, fitness trainer Joe Wicks has announced his plans to donate over £80,000 raised from his YouTube exercise videos to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) staff on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.

And James McAcvoy has donated £275,000 to the Masks For NHS Heroes campaign to provide protective equipment for staff, too.

So how can you help during the coronavirus pandemic?

If you can afford to make a donation of your own (don’t worry: it doesn’t have to be as big as Parton’s), then please consider one of the following causes:

The Masks for NHS Heroes campaign

This campaign aims to raise the money needed to pay for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for all NHS staff. 

Age UK

“Demand for our vital services is increasing rapidly,” reads a statement from Age UK, which provides companionship and support to vulnerable and lonely elderly people.

“Please help us be there for older people who desperately need us during this crisis.”

The Trussell Trust

The Trussell Trust is working to stop UK hunger and poverty, and their network of foodbanks provides emergency food and support to people in crisis.

Beauty Banks

Beauty Banks distribute unused toiletries – think toothbrushes, shampoo and sanitary products – to registered charitable organisations throughout Britain who, in turn, distribute these out to those who need it most.

Battersea Dogs Home

It costs around £50,000 every day to care for the animals across Battersea’s three centres. Now more than ever, they need your support to care for the thousands of animals who arrive at their gates every year.


Self-isolation is tough, but it’s even tougher for those struggling with their mental health. By donating to Mind, you’ll be able to help them help those who need it most.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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