No Shot for You! Former ‘Seinfeld’ Writer on Living Just Outside of Vaccine Eligibility (Guest Blog)

Former “Seinfeld” writer Peter Mehlman opines about being one year shy of being vaccine-eligible

Last Updated: March 19, 2021 @ 2:41 PM

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The rules, which we assumed wouldn’t apply to us, were straightforward. You must be 65, an essential worker or have a qualifying pre-existing condition. One sitcom writer thought simply flashing his Writers’ Guild card would do the trick. Another figured his hundred shares of Pfizer would buy him some rhythm. I claimed to have early-onset rigor mortis.

None of us got the COVID vaccine yet. The problem is, we all have just one pre-existing condition: We’re 64 years old.

We’re not complaining, as that would be unseemly. But if you’ve had a durable Hollywood career in TV writing, feeling entitled doesn’t feel like an entitlement. It’s just an ingrained custom. If, say, you ran a red light while writing on a ’90s sitcom, there was always a studio connection affording you the benefits of attending traffic school without attending.

But clearly, show business privilege has met its match in the form of a worldwide pandemic. Our advanced skills for line-jumping won’t get us that vaccine. And even if they did, we’re a little stuck for a way around the ethics of scamming a life-or-death situation. Most or many or some of us have had to accept that the concept of “rules are rules” is, in this rare instance, warranted. Being among the non-est of non-essential workers, we own it that most Americans deserve the vaccine before us.

But we’re not complaining. In fact, there’s solace in knowing that being vaccine-qualified has a downside: All those 65-plus TV writers who habitually lied about their age are now lying about having gotten the shot.

How about the unforeseeable consequences of a birthday? You couldn’t write this stuff!

Nevertheless, being 64 has been viciously cruel lately. Well, viciously cruel sounds like a complaint. Let’s say it’s … troubling: Like being 15, passing your road test, but still waiting for your license.

I was born in May 1956. I have ’56er friends who are Gemini, Leo, Libra and Sagittarius. A floating hot tip in mid-February whispered that if your government-issued ID says you were born in 1956, those calling the shots will vaccinate you regardless of your sign. But then came the story of a Libra driving from Brentwood to the Dodger Stadium vaccination site. “You’re 64,” the attendant reportedly said in the tone of a TSA agent saying, “There’s a 9MM Glock in your carry-on.”

Talk about harrowing stories! That was the LA equivalent of Apollo 13 circling the moon without ever landing.

Speaking of Tom Hanks, being born in 1956 used to feel pretty cool. Hanks, Bryan Cranston, Sela Ward, Mel Gibson, Carrie Fisher, Larry Bird, Bjorn Borg … all ’56ers. We were the heart of the baby boom, the demographic that would always be so cool that when we reached old age, kids would apply iron-on wrinkles to look like us.

Now look at us: Moderna-deprived shut-ins.

Speaking of unfair, of the stars listed above, the only one born early enough in ’56 to have already gotten vaccinated? Mel Gibson.

Instant karma’s gonna get you … really?

But we’re not complaining. Sure, we could accuse our parents of poor post-war family planning, but even for Boomers, that’s a stretch. And speaking of Beatles, indicting Paul McCartney for a seriously warped image of life at 64 is also unfair. Even Stephen Hawking, born the same year as Sir Paul, couldn’t have foreseen Vera, Chuck and Dave attending Zoom school.

Lately, as President Biden’s COVID plans cast a pale light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, talk of finagling a vaccine has waned among the 1956 sitcom crowd. Our conversation now focuses on resuming our careers. Sure, there’s still the occasional joke: “Can I get vaccinated by saying I have an unmitigated gall bladder?” We laugh, but humor’s dangerous these days. We don’t know if TV executives will react to COVID humor with a woke-infected, “That’s not okay!” We do know the same 65 that qualifies us for vaccines will age us out of most writing jobs.

But we’re not complaining. Hollywood loves coming-of-age stories.

Peter Mehlman started his career as a writer for the Washington Post, then wrote for and produced the TV series, "SportsBeat" with Howard Cosell. In 1989, he moved to Los Angeles and soon became a writer and later executive producer for "Seinfeld" -- most famous for his "Yada Yada" episode. In recent years, he has continued creating TV shows, writing screenplays and humor pieces for NPR, Esquire, The New York Times, Washington Post and L.A. Times while also appearing on-camera for TNT Sports and his own web program "Pete Mehlman’s Narrow World of Sports."