Longtime Blue Water pharmacist touts the safety and importance of COVID-19 vaccine

Jim Kaski is the first to admit that he struggles to understand when people are anti-vaccination, to take seriously the different conspiracy theories that are out there.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not trying. As president of the St. Clair County Pharmacists Association and leader of the nonprofit organization Blue Water Immunization Partnership, it’s Kaski’s job to reach as many people as he can, whether they want to hear from him or not. He’ll listen to anyone’s concerns.

Kaski comes to the discussion with more than 40 years experience as a pharmacist; his first job after school was at Cunningham’s Drug Store in downtown Port Huron in the early 1970s. He was also the first St. Clair County pharmacist to become certified in offering immunizations. It wasn’t commonplace in 2006, he says, but now it’s become part of the job requirements.

He has first-hand experience with the benefits of immunization — or lack thereof.

“When immunizations at the pharmacy started happening, I saw the health effects it had on people,” Kaski says. “Why get sick and spend $20,000 on bills and medications when you could have had a vaccination for $10 or $15?”

It’s why he’s been on a bit of a media blitz this week, touting the benefits and importance of St. Clair County residents scheduling their COVID-19 vaccinations. The vaccine, he says, is most definitely safe.

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, Kaski himself received the first of two immunizations against the coronavirus at the Blue Water Convention Center in Port Huron. It was the Moderna brand vaccine, which means he’ll have to return for a second shot in four weeks.

Kaski stresses the importance of following up with the second shot, which acts like a booster to ensure the efficacy of the vaccine.

“You want to make sure to get both shots. That’s the important thing,” he says. “You might say that you can get away with just taking the one but that’s like saying you can beat anybody in poker. It’s a gamble.”

Kaski walked away from his own vaccination experience quite pleased. He felt no side effects — though that’s not guaranteed for everyone — and says that the whole experience was over in less than half an hour, in and out.

Because the vaccine is limited in supply and currently only available to prioritized groups — like health care and other essential workers — Kaski recommends that those interested check the website of the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services to view their eligibility status. It was recently announced that all Michiganders over the age of 65 will become eligible for the vaccine beginning Monday, Jan. 11.

Signing up for the vaccine is easy, he says, and only requires a quick visit to the St. Clair County website. Fill out a survey and reserve your appointment at the Blue Water Convention Center.

“Immunization statistics in St. Clair County are low compared to other counties. If you don’t have your immunizations then the whole community is at risk,” Kaski says.
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