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Here's How Many People Got Vaccinated At Garth Brooks' Kansas City Concert

Mike Jenkins of St. Joseph, Missouri, receiving a vaccination at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday before the Garth Brooks concert.
Jodi Fortino
Mike Jenkins of St. Joseph, Missouri, receiving a vaccination at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday before the Garth Brooks concert.

Financial and other incentives generally have not moved the needle much when it comes to persuading people to get COVID-19 vaccinations.

More than 74,000 people attended the Garth Brooks concert Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium, and some of them lined up for COVID-19 vaccinations in exchange for a chance to win upgraded floor seats.

The numbers are now in and they’re less than overwhelming: A grand total of 35 people were vaccinated at the Kansas City Health Department’s pop-up clinic, according to a spokeswoman for the department.

It’s not known, of course, how many of the Garth Brooks fans at the stadium were already vaccinated. But the vaccination rate in the Kansas City area is a notch above 40%. If the stadium crowd was a representative sample of the area’s population, that means more than 40,000 people in the stadium had not received shots.

The concert took place six days after the health department held a similar vaccination event before the Gucci Mane show at the Liberty Memorial. People who got vaccinated at the on-site clinic were entered into a raffle to win two free backstage passes to the rap concert.

The total number of people who took up the city’s offer at the Gucci Mane concert? Eight.

What's it take to vaccinate

The health department’s interim director, Frank Thompson, was not available to comment on the disappointing numbers. (Former health department director Rex Archer retired on Aug. 1.) But it was yet another demonstration of how little vaccine lotteries and prizes have moved the needle, at least in Kansas City, when it comes to persuading people to get vaccinated.

Financial incentives have motivated some people to get vaccinated, as NPR reported last month. Ohio’s Vax-a-Million lottery boosted vaccination rates by 28% in less than week. And surveys by UCLA researchers found that about a third of unvaccinated individuals said they would get a vaccine for cash.

But, as NPR noted, “in states such as Arkansas, vaccination rates remain low despite incentive programs. And while incentives in other states have had better luck, their success has been short-lived in many cases, including Ohio’s.”

A spokeswoman for the Kansas City manager’s office put a more hopeful spin on things, noting in an email that the 35 people who got shots at the Garth Brooks concert were in addition to 333 vaccinations the health department administered at various events and clinics last week.

“We are increasing our efforts to partner with community events to meet people where they are – partnering with schools to get younger people vaccinated, returning to the City Market and coordinating with the upcoming Planet Comicon Kansas City to name a few,” the spokeswoman, Maggie Green, wrote.

Planet Comicon Kansas City is scheduled to take place at Bartle Hall Convention Center on Aug. 20-22. In past years – this will be the 21st Planet Comicon Kansas City event – it has drawn upwards of 60,000 people.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson recently announced drawings with $10,000 prizes to encourage people to get vaccinated. The announcement came as the state reported its highest COVID-19 numbers since mid-January. This week the Missouri health department issued a COVID-19 “hotspot advisory” for Cass and Jackson counties and for Kansas City and the surrounding area.

“Hospitals in the region are seeing resource strain from dramatically increased numbers of COVID-19 patients and hospitalizations. As a result, several hospitals in the region are at or near capacity. Continued disease spread into Northwest Missouri is expected,” the advisory stated.

Missouri, with a population of just over 6 million, has recorded nearly 590,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 10,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Missouri health department.

Kansas City issued a mask mandate that took effect Aug. 2 requiring anyone over the age of 5 to wear mask indoors in public venues, regardless of their vaccination status.

Arrowhead officials said in advance of the Garth Brooks concert that attendees would be required to wear masks only in enclosed public areas of the stadium, per Kansas City’s mask mandate. Although Brooks encouraged people to get vaccinated and told them not to be afraid of wearing masks at the concert, very few in the crowd were seen wearing them.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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