VIRGINIA CITY, Mont. — While many businesses in this southwestern Montana “ghost town” reel in tourists with its mining and Wild West vigilante past, one businessman arrived offering a modern product: covid-19 vaccines.
Kyle Austin, a traveling pharmacist, set up his mobile clinic in Virginia City on a recent Saturday, the latest stop on his circuit of Montana’s vaccine deserts.
“In any business, going to the people is better than waiting for the people to come to you,” the 38-year-old pharmacist said.
While many businesses scaled back at the height of the pandemic, Austin saw covid as an opportunity. He opened his own shop, Pharm406, in Billings — a nod to Montana’s lone area code. Then when the covid vaccine became available, and thousands of people across Montana were stuck on waitlists, he hit cities large and small in a school bus turned vaccine clinic, offering shots with no appointment needed.
“When they started talking about covid coming out I was like, ‘All right, we’re gonna create a vaccine, there’s gonna be a big demand for it, and Montana doesn’t have a lot of access,’” he said. “I hate to say it, but I literally took advantage of covid-19 to open up and push forward.”