Monthly Archives: March 2015

Guest Commentary in Everett Herald – HPV vaccine is a simple step against cancer

March 23rd, 2015|

In just the last six months, a measles outbreak at Disneyland spread fear into communities across the country. Deadly meningococcal disease at the University of Oregon claimed a young life and launched a campaign for immediate mass immunizations on campus. These occurrences and others have been a stark reminder that it still is very important for us to have open conversations about the critical importance of vaccinations for individual and community health.

Washington has a history of high rates of vaccine hesitancy and vaccine exemptions, so our kids may be at greater risk. As parents, as leaders, we want to do everything we can to protect children across this state and beyond.

While the focus this year has been on chicken pox and meningitis, there is another preventable disease that urgently requires more attention. Human papilloma virus, or HPV, causes 90 percent of all cervical cancers, as well as other cancers in men and women. One third of HPV-related cervical cancer cases will be fatal. More than 6,000 people are likely to die this year from HPV-related cancers.

Despite this, the vaccination rate for HPV is below 40 percent for girls and below 15 percent for boys. By comparison, 90 percent of children in the U.S. are vaccinated for polio, measles and chicken pox. The juxtaposition is staggering.

Last week, a resolution passed the state Senate calling for increased efforts to raise awareness of HPV vaccines, and every Washingtonian should pay attention.

HPV is a sexually transmitted virus and it’s at epidemic levels across the country. Most people who contract the disease experience no symptoms. Many immune systems defeat the virus within a year or two, but others are not so lucky. HPV can cause cancer and nearly 27,000 cancer cases are reported in the U.S. annually, in men and women. Most cases are preventable through immunizations.

The power to eradicate this form of cancer is available to everyone with just a series of three vaccinations, given over six months. HPV vaccinations are recommended for early adolescents, around ages 11-12. Many parents and providers are uncomfortable thinking about preventing a sexually transmitted disease in young teens. The age recommendation has much less to do with sexual activity, than with a child’s developing body. Doctors recommend the HPV vaccine at this age in part because this is when the immune system is best ready to respond to the vaccine. It’s about biology, not behavior. The stigma of HPV as a sexually-transmitted disease, combined with our state’s high vaccine hesitancy rates, have made the battle against HPV-related cancers challenging.

Doctors, public health officials and political and community leaders agree: Now is the time for action. There are two key steps we urge every Washingtonian to take to help fight HPV-related cancer.

First, if you have children, get them vaccinated. Talk to your doctor about the best age and be sure to get all three shots. Your child should get the chance to avoid HPV-related cancer.

Second, whether you have children or not, fight the stigma and start a conversation. If your grandchildren are adolescents, talk to their parents about HPV vaccination. Encourage parents with adolescent children to talk about HPV vaccination.

It is within our power to eradicate HPV-related cancers in a generation if we take action. Our children deserve to grow up without the specter of this cancer looming over their lives. Now is the time for statewide conversation and action to prevent HPV.

State Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, represents the 46th District and serves as Ranking Democrat on the Senate Health Care Committee. Diana Birkett Rakow is president of the Group Health Foundation.

What’s the right way to reduce tuition?

March 18th, 2015|

One of the most important discussions in this year’s budget has to do with tuition at our public colleges and universities. Since I’ve been in the legislature I’ve made it a priority that an accessible and affordable higher education be offered for every student who wants to attend college here in Washington. This year, we’re again talking about how we can freeze or possibly even reduce tuition for our students.

There’s no doubt that a reduction in tuition is the ultimate goal– we know that higher education is key to getting a good job these days, and skyrocketing tuition costs have overloaded students with debt and forced some to drop out or avoid college entirely. The question is – how do we pay for it?

Senate Republicans have offered a proposal for tuition reduction without an explicit funding source, saying that it should just be funded in the budget. Without being sure whether some or all of the cost of tuition reduction will be funded each budget cycle this proposal could effectively drive hundreds of millions out of the higher education system, costing students more money by limiting course offerings and forcing more students to come back for fifth or sixth years. Since K-12 funding needs to be dramatically increased as well, it seems to me that the likely result would be a significant reduction in our safety net programs and things like our already underfunded mental health care systems.

Personally, I believe we need to find new revenue sources to provide dedicated funding for education, including higher education – I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask the wealthiest in our society to pay a little more in taxes so that the middle class doesn’t have to foot the tax bill for our entire state government – but even identifying a specific funding source that already exists and dedicating it to higher education would be a better option that our students could depend upon to ensure lower, stable tuition and a high quality college education. For example, before this bill passed I co-sponsored an amendment that would have paid for the tuition reduction by closing unnecessary tax loopholes in our budget. That would be the responsible thing to do for students.

The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin newspaper is a little bit outside of my district, but they ran an editorial over the weekend which I thought had a smart take on the issue. You may want to consider checking it out.

Statement on Lieutenant Governor ruling on unconstitutional Senate rule

March 2nd, 2015|

Sen. David Frockt issued the following statement on Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen’s ruling on Rule 64 of the Senate rules:

“On the first day of session when this supermajority requirement was put into the Senate rules, I stood on the floor and tried to prevent it from taking place. I argued as strongly as I could that it would be ruled unconstitutional. The rules of the Senate cannot override a clear constitutional ruling even if the rule in question is procedural. The substantive effect of Rule 64  was the same as the statute that was ruled unconstitutional in the League of Education Voters case, which I was a plaintiff in. I understand that people disagree with the Court’s ruling overturning the 2/3 requirement. The remedy they seek, however, can only come in the form of a  constitutional amendment and not this type of procedural rule. I commend Lt. Governor Owen for his well-reasoned, logical  ruling that highlighted substance over form.

“Furthermore, this ruling has important implications, just as the League of Education Voters case did. The supermajority requirement locks in place the most unfair tax structure in the nation and would have prevented us from seeking tax reform that could close tax loopholes and perhaps move us toward a fairer, less regressive state tax system. I look forward to working to invest in schools, transportation and other critical public needs with clarity regarding the vote requirement for passage of necessary tax reforms.”