Dolly Parton Tried to Get Tennessee Vaccinated. But It’s Not Enough.

July 16, 2021, 7:40 p.m. ET

NASHVILLE — When Dolly Parton received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine at Vanderbilt University, where her million-dollar donation helped to fund the research, she sang an updated version of her iconic song “Jolene.” The tongue-in-cheek lyrics were meant to inspire people to get vaccinated:

Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine
I’m begging of you, please don’t hesitate
Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine
’Cause once you’re dead, then that’s a bit too late

She gave it a good try, a heroic try, but somehow the bonehead politicians running this state managed to overcome even the good will generated by its favorite daughter.

Remember how hopeful we were when the new Covid-19 vaccines arrived so astonishingly quickly, and were so astonishingly effective and safe? As a nation — politically, institutionally, too often personally — we’d botched almost everything about this pandemic, and we did not deserve a miracle. The miracle arrived anyway.

We were giddy about the prospect of those vaccines. We could not stop talking about how happy we would be to sit in a movie theater again, to hear live music again, to go to church and sing out loud again, to sit and talk around a table again, late into the night, with no care for how long we had been breathing the same air. We would reach for new babies and lean down to smell their downy heads. We would weep with the joy of being skin to skin with new life. New life, after such a long, dark year!

The anticipation of happiness seemed truly ecumenical. Liberals, conservatives, politically indifferent people — all the people I knew were watching for their vaccine priority number to come up. We were signing up for leftover doses that might be available at the end of the day. We were heading out of town to get vaccinated in rural counties where health officials were moving more quickly through the vaccine priority rankings. The lack of vaccine lines should have told us something was happening in those counties, something besides the fact that fewer people lived there.

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