HAMILTON — Shot-by-shot, the coronavirus battle is entering a new phase but for historic local pharmacies, the on-going sense of community service and extra effort is what's delivering the vaccine to Montana's most vulnerable populations.
By now, the precautions are familiar, the social distancing, masks, and sanitizer. But what's unexpected are the extra measures the staff at the historic Bitterroot Drug are taking to make sure the valley's older, and at-risk residents get their shots. They're taking their days off to help.
“We're gonna try to get as many people as we can in here on it right now, every Sunday after hours -- and we're gonna look at between 100 and 200 people every Sunday," Bitterroot Drug co-owner Pete Seifert explained. "And that means a steady stream of appointments, with family members jumping in to keep the flow efficient, with a shot every five minutes…
“But we can only get what the vaccine, how much vaccine we're allotted, which so far has been not enough. But we're getting there, said Adam Jaccard who works as a pharmacist at Bitterroot Drug.
“Right now, the last two shipments we were supposed to get have been delayed for the last two weeks, so it's been a little bit frustrating, but that was due to weather back East," Seifert added.
The interest in getting the shot is so acute that the pharmacists tell me many times when they call people and tell them they can have an appointment to get their shot they start crying over the phone.
“People are just happy to be coming out, getting the vaccine, and seeing possibly an end to having to wear masks. Having to worry about getting sick more than anything else," Jaccard told MTN News. "So seeing some fear kind of dissipate is great.”
Bitterrooters like Jay Cozby are relieved to reduce the risk to himself and his wife, who's fighting multiple myeloma.
“Well, we've been trying to get it ever since they come out with an, you know, we just never could get it. This was the first time so you know it's just been a blessing," the retiree said. "And now I just wish my wife was here today. But she's awfully ill. For others, the promise of a return to "normal", even if their daily lives haven't changed too much.
“We've got a lot of people that are excited. School teachers, just the general population. So, the sooner we can do this the better," Siefert said.
Behind the scenes, the real story is that of a business that's helped generations of Montanas through every medical crisis for more than a century -- from Spanish flu to H1N1, showing that caring is powerful medicine too.
“I'm just honored to be a part of it. There's just a long-standing history of Bitterroot Drug taking care of the community since 1890," Seifert observed. "There's not many pharmacies in this nation that can say that, and it's a pleasure to be a part of it and just be a part of the community.”
Seifert is hopeful that the availability of the vaccine will continue to increase in the coming weeks, allowing providers in Ravalli County to be able to treat hundreds more people each week.