As multiple businesses across the country were shut down due to the devastating effects of the pandemic, this businessman from southwestern Montana arrived with an innovative idea: Mobile pharmacy.
A traveling pharmacist, Kyle Austin, set a mobile clinic up in Virginia City, which was the most recent stop in one of Montana’s vaccine devoid areas.
Innovative Businessman Sets Up Mobile Pharmacy
He said that in any business, it is more important to go to the people than to wait for the people to come to you.
Austin saw Covid as an opportunity to make money, as many businesses scaled back during the pandemic. He opened doors to his new shop, Pharm406, in Billings. When thousands of people were waitlisted to get the vaccine across Montana, he visited cities in a school bus that he had converted into a vaccine clinic and offered doses without the requirement of any appointments.
He said that when they started talking about the rise of Covid, he realized that they would create a vaccine and there would be a huge demand for it. He admitted that he took advantage of the lack of access to vaccines in Montana and pushed forward.
At present, as the demand for vaccines dries up, a part of Austin’s business model is collecting stragglers as he moves around from town to town. He looks at it as a service that he’s offering to rural Montana that also makes money for him.
In certain parts of the state, he was the only one offering the Pfizer vaccine. This vaccine is the only one that has been approved for those who fall between the ages of 12 and 17. Local leaders are left scratching their heads as to how they can fill the gaps in between his visits.
Austin talks like a businessman who knows rural Montana, while dressed in blue scrubs.
He finds his roots in Havre, a town in Montana that is about 35 miles south of the US-Canada border. It has a population of almost 9000. He traveled across the state for years as a relief pharmacist for drugstores. This work had to stall when Covid arrived.
In July 2020, he opened his own shop in Billings as a brick-and-mortar base was required to obtain a state pharmacy license. After this, he launched his mobile pharmacy.
Through this, he offered rapid Covid tests, which were also in high demand. He expanded beyond what one would typically find in a drugstore: He bought a cryotherapy machine to add to the pharmacy’s services after he used one himself.
After noticing that people could rent electric scooters in town, he began to make use of them for distribution. In addition to this, he used flu shots to conduct a test run of his vaccine tour with the slogan, “get a brew, not the flu,” while partnering with breweries to give a free drink to anyone getting the shot.
He left a team of 7 employees to run his drugstore in Billings and hit the road with Covid vaccines.
Mobile clinics have provided an easy way to make a profit. He is not required to rent space of staff an entire pharmacy for the trips. The health departments of the town advertise the clinics for him, and locals provide space for him to park. When the weather is nice, he further reduces costs by camping along the way.
He said that in most cases, he can break even by administering a mere 20 shots a day. Up to this point, the government has provided the vaccines for free, and he gets paid $30 on average to administer the shot between payments from insurance companies.