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March 31, 2000
DOVER, Deleware (AP) -- An Air Force major was discharged from the military on Thursday, ending his fight against an order to take an anthrax vaccine.
Maj. Sonnie Bates, 35, had initially faced a court-martial for refusing an order. He was believed to have been the highest-ranking officer in the Air Force to face a court-martial for refusing an order to take the vaccine. Bates, a pilot at Dover Air Force Base, contended the vaccine could jeopardize his health. The Pentagon insists the vaccine is safe.
The Air Force last month said it wouldn't court-martial Bates and later offered him a general discharge under honorable conditions. "I think what we really want to come out of all this is for Congress to take this issue to the floor and debate it," Bates said. "I don't have to worry about the vaccine, but there are a lot of people who do."
The Defense Department wants to vaccinate all 2.4 million of its active and reserve uniformed personnel against anthrax, a deadly biological weapon. About 200 to 300 service personnel have disobeyed the order. Some have been prosecuted, and some reservists have quit instead of taking the shots.
Congressional panel recommends suspension of military's