As friends and fans mourned the loss of legendary TV actress and comedian Betty White, vaccine skeptics are attempting to link her death to a COVID-19 booster shot.
White died at 99 on Dec. 31, weeks before her 100th birthday on Jan. 17. Her agent told USA TODAY she died peacefully in her sleep from natural causes. But some on social media are using a fabricated quote to claim otherwise.
“’Eat healthy and get all your vaccines. I just got boosted today.’ -Betty White, Dec 28th, 2021,” reads a Jan. 2 Facebook post that includes a screenshot of an article from Crow River Media.
“Betty White got her booster Dec. 28, 2021. Let that sink in,” reads another Dec. 31 Facebook post that accumulated more than 200 reactions within a few days. Similar versions of the claim have made their way to Facebook and Twitter.
But White never made the statement being attributed to her on social media, and she didn’t receive a booster shortly before her death, her agent said. Independent fact-checking organizations have debunked the claim, which is far from the first time a celebrity’s death has been falsely connected to a COVID-19 vaccine.
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The social media users who shared the post did not return requests for comment.
Jeff Witjas, White’s agent, told People magazine that she did not receive a COVID-19 booster three days before her death, and she never made the statement circulating online.
“People are saying her death was related to getting a booster shot three days earlier, but that is not true,” Witjas said in a statement to People. “She died of natural causes. Her death should not be politicized — that is not the life she lived.”
A Crow River Media article referenced in the post makes no mention of White receiving a booster shot three days before her death. The article is based on a Dec. 28 People story about White’s health, which also does not include anything about COVID-19 vaccines.
In a Jan. 3 editorial statement, Crow River Media’s general manager and editor said the outlet did not quote White as saying she received her booster shot, and it did not change the story about her to remove the purported quote.
White is the latest target of posts implying a connection between a COVID-19 shot and a celebrity’s death. USA TODAY has previously debunked similar claims about the deaths of hip-hop artist DMX, baseball legend Hank Aaron and Hall of Fame boxer Marvin Hagler.
Studies have proven that the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 booster shots are safe and reduce the chance of infection and hospitalization from the virus. The Food and Drug Administration says the benefits of a single booster dose far outweigh the risks of heart-related side effects.
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As of late November, unvaccinated adults were 17 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than fully vaccinated adults, according to the CDC.
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that White said she received a COVID-19 booster shot days before her death. Her agent said White died peacefully in her home from natural causes and that she did not receive a booster shot days before her death. The article mentioned in the posts does not include a quote from White on booster shots, and there is no record of her making the statement.
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