Actress Betty White died on New Year’s Eve, just a few weeks shy of her 100th birthday. Since then, rumors quickly surfaced that she died after receiving the booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, her agent has cleared the air.
Some social media posts claimed that White had received a booster shot on December 28, with a fabricated quote that reads, “‘Eat healthy and get all your vaccines. I just got boosted today,’ Betty White, Dec. 28th, 2021.”
According to reports from the Associated Press, the quote has turned up on Twitter and Facebook, leading to rumors that the shot might have caused her death.
Quashing those rumors, White’s agent and friend, Jeff Witjas, told PEOPLE that The Golden Girls star did not get her booster shot on December 28, according to Health.
He said in a statement, “Betty died peacefully in her sleep at her home. People are saying her death was related to getting a booster shot three days earlier but that is not true. She died of natural causes. Her death should not be politicized — that is not the life she lived.”
Witjas also addressed the fake quote, stating, “She never said that regarding the booster. Betty died of natural causes. She did not have the booster three days before she died.”
So the booster shot rumor is untrue. White died of natural causes, so what do you mean by natural causes?
Dr. Sarah Reuss of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center told Health it is important to point out upfront that “dying of natural causes” is not a medical term.
“It’s more of a term used to communicate with people outside the medical field,” she explained. A lot of times, what we use to talk to each other [in the medical field] doesn’t make sense to people outside the field, so we have a lot of terms to help people outside the medical field better understand us.”
Dr. Reuss said dying from natural causes is usually interpreted as “nothing acute happened.”
Dr. Christopher Kerr, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Executive Officer for Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo, told Health that “dying from natural causes” is usually used when someone dies of old age.
“There’s usually an absence of overriding disease,” he explained. “There isn’t a driving catabolic state—it’s really dying in totality, and a general progression of loss of functional strength, energy, and appetite over time.”