Dolly Parton helped fund Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine research

NASHVILLE -- In April, less than a month after COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic, Dolly Parton donated $1 million to coronavirus research at Vanderbilt University.

More than seven months later, it's been revealed that the legendary performer's donation helped fund Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, which this week became the second coronavirus vaccine with a stunningly high success rate.

Parton's name appears in the preliminary report on the vaccine among sponsors like the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Dr. Anthony Fauci heads, and Emory University. She originally donated to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in honor of her friend and Vanderbilt professor of surgery Dr. Naji Abumrad.

The Moderna vaccine is 94.5% effective against coronavirus, according to early data released this week by the company. Vaccinations could begin as soon as late December, Fauci said, though they'll be made available first to high-risk groups like health care workers, the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions.

COVID-19 has surged since Parton first made her donation. Then, there were just over 200,000 reported COVID-19 cases in the US. Now, there are over 11.2 million cases and nearly 250,000 Americans have died.

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Parton recognized then the severity of the virus and urged her fans to donate to Vanderbilt Health's COVID-19 research fund, which has raised more than $98,000 of its $250,000 goal.

Her gift was first used toward research for interim COVID-19 treatments while the vaccine was being developed, she said in an April appearance on NBC's "Today."

"I felt like this was the time for me to open my heart and my hand and try to help," she said in her "Today" appearance.

CNN has reached out to Moderna and representatives for Parton and is waiting to hear back.

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