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Anthrax hearing delayed again

By Gayle S. Putrich
Army Times Staff writer

The second delay of an anthrax vaccination hearing will keep the question of mandatory shots for members of the military up in the air for at least another month.

An Aug. 9 status hearing on the Doe vs. Rumsfeld case has been pushed back to Sept. 7, this time at the request of the judge. The hearing, in which the judge would ask questions and hear arguments from both sides without rendering a decision, was originally scheduled for June 27, but moved back at the request of the government without explanation.

Mark Zaid, an attorney for the six anonymous military and federal civilian plaintiffs in the suit, said he had no details on the reason for either of the delays.

The anthrax vaccine became voluntary in late 2004 when U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan shut down the mandatory program, ruling that the Food and Drug Administration had failed to properly license the vaccine.

The FDA issued a final rule certifying the vaccine for all types of anthrax, including inhaled, last December. The Pentagon then appealed not only to have Sullivan's injunction lifted, but to have the courts certify that the mandatory program had been legal all along.

In February, an appeals court dissolved the injunction but sent the case back to Sullivan to decide whether the mandatory program was legal.