LAS VEGAS – Dancer JoJo Hamner, wearing a French maid-inspired lingerie costume and high heels, patiently waited to receive her COVID-19 vaccine in a row located under a red light chandelier at a glittering hostess booth snaked past.
When it was her turn, Hamner sat down on a chair and held onto a small feather duster that completed her costume while a nurse administered the shot into her already exposed arm.
Hamner then waited nearby for the required 15 minutes of observation, sitting with other vaccine recipients in leather armchairs between plush purple booths, open stages, and empty bars at this Las Vegas strip club.
“This is just the Vegas I’ve ever seen,” she said of the experience.
Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club, with a spinning disco ball that casts rainbow colors on the walls but turns on more lights than usual, was an unconventional place for a walk-in vaccination clinic. Yet as government officials and health workers try to meet the declining demand for COVID-19 vaccines, they are increasingly turning to creative ways to motivate people to show up and get a chance.
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“This is just another way to get access to our population,” said JoAnn Rupiper, the Southern Nevada Health District’s head nurse who oversaw the walk-in clinic. “It might attract some people who like the novelty of this, I suppose.”
The clinic was open for several hours Friday night and administered shots to about 100 people before the strip club opened for its usual business. Several members of the club, including Hamner, a topless revue dancer, have made their recordings at the clinic along with members of the public.
Some people who showed up to get gunshots admitted they were reluctant to get the vaccine, but opted for it when it meant going to a strip club.
Roberto Montti, who lives near the club, said he postponed his shot but realized he should get it in order to resume his love of travel.
Montti said he probably got his shot in a more humble location but decided to go to the Hustler Club because it looked familiar.
“I’ve been here so many times – I’ve been here a couple of times. … Maybe ten times, give or take,” he said with a laugh.
“I wanted to wait, I’ll tell you,” Las Vegas-resident Michael Myers said as he stood between a picture of a full-length naked woman and a sign promoting social distancing and other behaviors to stop the virus from spreading mitigate.
Myers’s wife, Lisa Harper, said he changed his mind when she told him they could both get it at the Hustler Club.
“I said, ‘Flynt’s Hustler?’ She said, “Yeah.” I said, ‘Oh! Let me think about it,’ “Myers said with a laugh.
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“Lots of people who normally wouldn’t, lots of people, they said, they came here because it’s Hustler,” said his wife, Harper. “To take the rigidity away from it, to make it hustler, it’s very smart.”
“Nothing says vaccinations like a stripper pole,” said the couple’s friend, George Stoecklin, who joined them to get his shot.
Myers, 70, said he was reluctant to get the shot and was concerned about how quickly it was available. But he recorded his age and said he was concerned about his ability to spread the virus and infect others, including his wife.
Myers said he was disappointed that there were no dancers on stage while he got his shot, but said, “At least I got the scope of it.”
More than 46% of the state’s population ages 12 and older have received at least one shot of the vaccine, but Nevada health officials said this week that a sharp drop in demand for shots could make it impossible for the state to hit a target of 75% vaccinate eligible population.
Nevada officials have increasingly turned to pop-up clinics in churches, schools, and senior centers – and now strip clubs – for more shots in the arms.
As demand slows across the country, governments and corporations are turning to other creative ways to get guns in their arms. Marijuana dispensaries have offered “Joint for Jabs,” breweries have offered “Shots and a Chaser,” and Ohio plans to roll out a lottery system next week for residents with $ 1 million in prize money and five college grants for full rides be vaccinated.
Las Vegas officials said the Hustler Club reached out to them to keep the clinic after they were housed at a similar vaccination site in the company’s New Orleans location. The club offered its own incentives for those who provide proof of vaccination: a membership card that gives them and five friends free entry, a free bottle of alcohol, dances by “a vaccinated entertainer,” and other perks.
Ralph James, the general manager, said the company thinks it is a good chance to help the community and get back to normal faster. He acknowledged that people don’t usually see the strip club as a public health partner, but said, “This gives everyone a chance to see how clean they are and it’s a normal business, just like any other business . ”
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