Country music star Dolly Parton burst into song on Tuesday as she received her first dose of the Moderna Covid vaccine that she helped to fund.
Parton, 75, launched into an adapted version of one of her best-known hits, singing: “Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I’m begging of you, please don’t hesitate. Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, because once you’re dead, then that’s a bit too late” to the tune of Jolene, which she wrote and recorded in 1973.
Despite her humorous take on getting the shot, Parton had a serious message for her fans, and the wider US public. “I’m so excited. I’ve been waiting a while,” the singer said in a video posted from the university. “I’m old enough to get it and I’m smart enough to get it.
“I’m trying to be funny now, but I’m dead serious about the vaccine. I think we all want to get back to normal, whatever that is. And that would be a great shot in the arm, wouldn’t it, if we could get back to that?”
Vaccine hesitancy is seen as a key issue in the US. While President Joe Biden has promised that there will be enough vaccine for every adult in America by the end of May, surveys have persistently shown that about a third of the US population is reluctant to get the shot – with minority groups especially liable to be cautious.
“I just wanted to encourage everybody because the sooner we get to feeling better, the sooner we are going to get back to being normal,” said Parton.
Less diplomatically, Parton added: “I just want to say to all of you cowards out there – don’t be such a chicken squat. Get out there and get your shot.”
The singer earned praise last year when it emerged that she was helping to fund the Moderna vaccine efforts through donating $1m (£716,000) to Vanderbilt University medical centre near her home in Nashville, Tennessee.
The medic administering her dose at the Vanderbilt site was Naji Abumrad, an old friend of Parton’s who treated her after she suffered minor injuries in a car accident in 2013. He had encouraged her to support the research, and her contribution, which became known as the Dolly Parton Covid-19 research fund, helped pay for the first part of the vaccine research.
He praised her for urging others to get the vaccine, and his son Jad Abumrad almost went as viral as Dolly herself on social media for saying it was “wild” to see his father administering the dose.
After Dr Abumrad knocked an item off the table while preparing the jab, a giggling Parton quipped: “I didn’t know you was going to be so clumsy, I hope you’re going to do better with my shot!”
On getting her first jab, she said: “That didn’t hurt.”
Parton is among celebrities to publicly confirm they have had a coronavirus vaccine, following on from the likes of Elton John, Michael Caine, David Attenborough, Tony Robinson and Ian McKellen. Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the US has now vaccinated more than 50 million adults with at least one dose of a vaccine.