Free shots (vaccines, that is) in Florida nightclubs

(AP Photo/Max Black)

Some of the most famous (and expensive) nightclubs in Florida may not be able to make proof of vaccination mandatory for admission under the orders of Governor Ron DeSantis, but they’re certainly going to make it as convenient as possible to get a dose of the vaccine. LIV and Story are two of the biggest clubs in the South Beach section of Miami, frequently hosting parties held by celebrities and sports superstars. But this weekend they added a new “shot” to the usual offerings of tequila and whiskey. Tents were set up outside of both clubs and mobile vaccination pods were established. Patrons were able to request a free vaccination and get one on the spot before continuing with their festivities. Is this a sign of desperation or just a clever marketing campaign? Since they aren’t saying how many people rolled up their sleeves we can’t say for sure, but both clubs still drew large crowds.

Ready to party at one of South Beach’s most glamorous nightclubs? Then roll up your sleeves because these shots won’t get you buzzed. LIV is offering free COVID-19 vaccines outside the Miami club where high rollers spend up to $20,000 just for a table.

The start-studded nightclub, where Super Bowl champs celebrate at parties so legendary they’ve inspired lyrics from Drake and Kanye West, set up pop-up COVID vaccine sites over the weekend at LIV and club Story to entice the young demographic that is rapidly filling up Florida hospitals as the delta variant rapidly spreads across Florida.

The Sunshine State set another record high over the weekend. On Saturday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 23,903 new COVID-19 cases for Friday. That tops the previous day’s record of 22,783 new cases.

My first thought upon reading this news was that offering a medical procedure to people who are drinking might not be the best plan. After a bit of searching online, however, I couldn’t find any information saying that alcohol would impede the effectiveness of the vaccine. Still, people frequently make poor decisions if they’ve had a few too many cocktails, and the decision to be vaccinated is a major one.

Other club owners in the area are using different tactics to try to drive more young people to roll up their sleeves. In West Palm Beach, the Clematis Social club may not be able to demand proof of vaccination to enter the club, but they are waiving their pricey door fees for anyone who voluntarily flashes their CDC card. They are also offering all employees of the club a $200 cash bonus if they show proof that they’ve been jabbed.

This isn’t quite the same as the vaccine lotteries being held in other states or the rest of the incentives being offered. This is happening in the private sector and it’s entirely voluntary. But it still puts forward one message that’s been worrying me and many other observers over the past eight months. Nobody ever offered me cash or any sort of “free stuff” to go get vaccinated against the flu or shingles or anything else. Granted, I had to take a lot of mandatory vaccines when I was in the military, but that’s a different situation. Also, they weren’t offering us goodies to do it. They just ordered you to go to the medical center or be prosecuted under the UCMJ.

In the end, I still won’t be surprised if it turns out that all of these free offers wind up backfiring. The AP interviewed one woman who had been “on the fence” about getting vaccinated and held off, even though she was going back out to the clubs. Then she came down with COVID two weeks ago, which she described as “the most horrible experience of my life.” Now she’s leaning toward going ahead and getting vaccinated anyway. But in the back of her mind, she has to be wondering whether she already has enough of her own antibodies to not be in any rush to do it.

Florida will turn out to be one of the most closely watched “laboratories” in terms of how the vaccines are being promoted and distributed. Ron DeSantis has lifted nearly all restrictions on his state’s residents and left the decision about whether or not to be vaccinated up to the individual. It’s true that the new case numbers in the Sunshine State are spiking right now, but that’s happening in quite a few places. There have been more than 600 new deaths attributed to COVID over the past week which is not good news, but in such a high-population state, it’s still not as bad as it was last winter.