Federal Judge Upholds Indiana University’s COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

In what appears to be the first but undoubtedly will not be the last legal ruling on COVID-19 vaccine requirements, U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Indiana Damon R. Leichty ruled  on Sunday that Indiana University may mandate students submit proof of vaccination before returning to campus this autumn.

Eight undergraduate and graduate students had sought to block the university’s requirement, alleging that it unconstitutionally infringed on their bodily integrity and autonomy,  as well as their medical privacy.

According to the New York Times, A federal judge upholds Indiana University’s vaccination requirement for students:

… [Judge Leichty] said that while he recognized the students’ interest in refusing unwarranted medical treatment, such a right must be weighed against the state’s greater interest.

“The Fourteenth Amendment permits Indiana University to pursue a reasonable and due process of vaccination in the legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty and staff,” his ruling said, also noting that the university had made exceptions for students who object.

Leichty outlined noted several options other than vaccination open to students, according to the BBC US judge upholds Indiana University vaccine requirement. These include:

applying for medical deferrals, taking a semester off or attending another school. Religious and ethical exemptions are also available for students to request on the university’s website

Leichty was appointed to the federal bench by former president Donald Trump. The decision is the first that addresses the constitutionality of COVID-19 vaccination mandates at public universities. Similar cases are pending against the California State University system and the University of Connecticut.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Indiana University Can Require Covid-19 Vaccines, Federal Judge Says:

Hundreds of private and public colleges and universities have adopted vaccine policies like Indiana University’s—in schools mostly clustered on the East and West coasts. Antivaccine activists have focused on public institutions, which are bound by constitutional restraints as government entities, and have brought lawsuits under the 14th Amendment and its protection of fundamental liberties.

Unsurprisingly, a university spokesperson applauded the judge’s ruling.

Yet this decision is far from the last word on the issue. Per the WSJ:

An attorney representing the students, conservative activist James Bopp Jr., said he would appeal. “We think the court made a fundamental error,” he said.

Federal courts have consistently upheld vaccination requirements at K-12 schools and workplaces, according to James G. Hodge, a professor of public health law at Arizona State University.

Opponents of the university requirements say they deserve more scrutiny from the courts. They contend the risks of requiring Covid-19 vaccines—which the Food and Drug Administration authorized for emergency use under a speedier-than-normal safety review—outweigh the public health benefits.

They say the number of serious Covid-19 cases among college and graduate students is too low to justify risks of the vaccine, including a potential link between Pfizer -BioNTech and Moderna’s mRNA Covid-19 vaccines and an inflammatory heart condition known as myocarditis.

Bopp noted that as coronavirus vaccines have only emergency use authorization, they thus should not be considered as part of the normal range of vaccinations that schools require, according to the NYT. Courts have generally upheld such general vaccine requirements. Bopp said he will take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. Per the NYT:

“What we have here is the government forcing you to do something that you strenuously object to and have your body invaded in the process,” said the lawyer, James Bopp Jr.

He said that the appeal would be paid for by America’s Frontline Doctors, a conservative organization that has been pursuing an anti-vaccine agenda. Mr. Bopp, of Terre Haute, Ind., is known for his legal advocacy promoting conservative causes.

Mr. Bopp filed the lawsuit in June, after Indiana University announced the previous month that faculty, staff and students would be required to get coronavirus vaccinations before coming to school this fall.

Fuzzily Drawn Exemptions Make Requirements Less than Iron Clad

Most of these vaccine mandates contain religious exemptions, as well as other wiggle room. The question arises: How to determine whether the claimed exemptions are legitimate? The answer: as the exemptions are usually rather fuzzily drawn, and even more loosely administered and interpreted, meaning in practice, an exemption can usually be had for the asking.

Now, in the past, sometimes, states step in and trump these religious waivers – as happened in New York IIRC with religious exemptions for measles vaccines when the state faced serious outbreaks before the coronavirus pandemic began.

I also note that the Indiana requirement, according to Judge Leichty, also includes an ethical exemption. I suppose that has also been crafted to more or less provide a vaccine out to any student who might ask to be exempted. without needing to cite religious scruples.

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  1. Jeff W

    In what appears to be the first but undoubtedly will not be the last legal challenge to COVID-19 vaccine requirements…

    It seems like there were at least a few lawsuits to COVID-19 vaccine requirements—against Houston Methodist Hospital; the Los Angeles Unified School District; the Durham County, North Carolina Sheriff’s Office; and the Doña Ana County Detention Center in New Mexico—before the lawsuit against Indiana University.

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      Thanks for your comment. I have clarified the point. I believe this is the first legal ruling on vaccine requirements – and both the NYT and BBC agree – as opposed to my original text, which read “first…legal challenge to” which is not quite the same thing.

  2. Mantid

    Once again, couched in bullsheit by the (beloved) New York Times. “He said that the appeal would be paid for by America’s Frontline Doctors, a conservative organization”. A “conservative” organization? In America, conservative means right wing wacko. The times knows this and uses these dog whistle terms for a reason. It amazes me how many people fall for this rubbish reporting. The US is being force fed like a prisoner at Guantanamo Concentration Camp.

    1. Synoia

      What is your proposal?

      It is easy to oppose requiring vaccinations, citing individual liberties. What is the alternative to protect others from the consequences of lacking vaccinations?

      1. Jokerstein

        I think Mantid’s point – and correct if I’m wrong – was commenting on the pernicious “reporting” that the MSM undertakes most of the time.

      2. tegnost

        My proposal is let the people who are willing to vaccinate do so and continue mask wearing, and the combination of those two things will, or rather would have had, a dynamic impact. Anecdotally, I’d say half or so people agree with me as that’s roughly the proportion who like me are still wearing masks, along with the retail employees for whom mask wearing is still required.

      3. Mikel

        I’m wanting to have all options on the table other than only constant injections, with who knows what diminishing returns, which don’t even address the spread of a virus and the mutations that a spread causes.
        Consisten degradation of any alternative treatments needs to stop, especially when the one thing everyone is hyping is just an experiment.

      4. LarryMotuz

        Liberty is ‘freedoms-to’ constrained only by ‘freedoms-from’. It is the exercise of civic responsibilities together which engages and protects our ‘freedoms-from’. What that means is that ‘individual liberty’ is not merely a set of unbounded, individual ‘freedoms-to’. That leads inevitably to a society in which few can enjoy ‘freedoms-to’ equally because the many are unable to escape freedom from oppression which unbridled ‘freedoms-to’ ultimately lead to. It is, in short, impossible for individuals to enjoy a shared freedom from oppression of any kind if the liberty of all common freedom is not a shared value: one which can be upheld only by exercising their shared, joint responsibilities to protect the personal liberty shared by all.

    2. SE

      I dead against vaccine mandates and agree with you on the press, and support these lawsuits. But to be fair, the head of America’s Frontline doctors was arrested in the capitol raid on Jan 6.

      1. LarryMotuz

        Vaccine mandates which include exemptions for medical conditions are appropriate. Religious liberty does not extend to refusing to exercise civil responsibilities of any kind. It does not extend to denying to others freedom-from disease which may kill or temporarily or permanently cause people people to have neurological or other physical disabilities. The freedom to exempt oneself from shared, civil responsibilities does not exist and cannot reasonably be said to exist.

  3. fumo

    I don’t understand why we in many of our countries coddle and enable anti-vaxxers by refusing to make the vaccination mandatory for work, school, travel, and recreation. You basically should be forced to remain in your house or take solitary walks with social distancing if you refuse to be vaccinated. It’s astonishing political cowardice to allow the disease to spread unchecked because you don’t want to create a political controversy. I’m far more of a libertarian than most of these anti-vaxxers, but sometimes you have to step up and do something for the society you live in, no whining, no excuses, no exceptions. It’s not like people are being asked to go to war, just take two extremely safe shots.

    1. Yves Smith

      First, being vaccine hesitant is not anti-vax. One connected reader asked the CEO of a big pharma co when he planned to take the vaccine. He said, “I’m not stupid. Exactly one year after Fauci.” Many MDs wait at least a year before prescribing new meds due to Big Pharma’s record of overhyping results and underplaying or not finding problems.

      As we have repeatedly pointed out, many low wage workers are not getting the vaccines because they know people personally who had a “typical” reaction of being too sick to work for a day or two. They can’t afford that. Missing work means not being able to pay the rent and maybe losing a job.

      One of our aides wound up in the ER after getting the shot. She got a bad case of vasticulitis. Her lower legs looked all bloody below the surface of the skin. The ER treated her and said if she’d gotten in much later, she’d have had a serious problem. Needless to say, she’s not taking a vaccine again.

      Second, what about “emergency use authorization” don’t you understand? The FDA statute makes clear that any use of a drug approved under an EUA is voluntary. I’m surprised and disappointed about this ruling. The attorneys should have pointed straight to the FDA language.

      The fastest previous pace for approval of a vaccine was IIRC 6 years. That is because, among other things, they validate every person in the trial, that they exist, that their description in the trial matches who they are (age, weight, gender, pre-existing conditions, effects of the drug on them, positive and negative). Even the normally orthodox publication STAT criticized the FDA for the statistical review part. Normally that takes a large team 6-9 months. Per STAT, the FDA did it in 2-3 weeks with 2 people. STAT questioned why the FDA at least didn’t throw more bodies at it.

      Third, there are reports of lasting bad reactions, such as the sustained worsening of symptoms among those with autoimmune diseases. Did you manage to miss that the government has issued a liability waiver to the drug companies and the parties that administer the shots?

      1. Societal Illusions

        well shared. I’d also add it’s not a binary decision due to the clear media and governmental complicity to conceal and misrepresent viable treatment options, which may have cost thousands of lives. if risks can not be properly evaluated, then how can good decision making take place?

      2. Synoia

        Is there a solution other than Compulsory Vaccination, Closed Institutions, or mass infections?

        It appears to me that the institution is stuck in a dilemma: Liable if it does not have compulsory 100% vaccination policy, and liable if it has a “individual choice” policy?

        Or it could continue to have a “remote learning only” policy, and at some undefinable point in the future return to having campus based education.

        1. me

          Bill Gates just bought an interest in PCR covid testing company, He is the second largest donor to the WHO, GAVI is his baby. He is testing out his corona type passport in the LA school system. This need to force everyone to be vaccinated and the vaccine system being started in UK, France & Greece is troubling.
          I have been working on covid units from the start, I do not plan on getting vaccinated and I don’t think I had the virus. The PPE we have been offered is a joke, reuse was unheard of before this. The way we are treated. I cannot even take this seriously anymore. I wear an N95 in the room, my surgical mask is on my chin unless the public is looking and I am not the only one.
          You want the vaccine take it, but unless you are forking over money if I have a reaction then you need to turn off your tv, stop reading the fearmonger articles please.

      3. Kris Alman

        Couldn’t agree with you more. This is the one and only brand new vaccine that FDA has authorized on EUA. See:
        From 9/11 to COVID-19: A Brief History of FDA Emergency Use Authorization

        Then came COVID-19. In February 2020, HHS Secretary Alex Azar declared the pandemic a national health emergency warranting emergency use of in vitro diagnostics, followed by subsequent declarations in March warranting emergency use of other countermeasures. Since then, FDA has issued nearly 400 EUAs for personal protective equipment, medical equipment, in vitro diagnostic products, drug products, and, most notably, vaccines (compared to 22 EUAs issued in response to H1N1 in 2009). An EUA had never been granted for a brand-new vaccine before; the only vaccine ever to have received an EUA prior to the current pandemic was AVA, an anthrax vaccine that had already been formally approved for other purposes when it was granted an EUA in 2005. This, combined with the stakes of administering a vaccine to people who are otherwise healthy, led FDA to commit itself to heightened standards of review, or “EUA plus,” in evaluating a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency authorization.

      4. Kris Alman

        Surrogate measures of antibody response to vaccines has not been correlated with vaccine breakthrough. One has to wonder if, like predictors of school success, the major predictor of vaccine success (including asymptomatic and mild breakthrough cases, as vaccine manufacturers insist) is the zip code.

        The current framing of “pandemic of the unvaccinated” likely doesn’t take into account demographics of deaths and hospitalized unvaccinated individuals. Have the majority of these unfortunate people experienced “biologically weathering” from chronic stressors (poverty being the big factor) that leaves them more susceptible to cytokine storms–whether it’s from a Covid infection or vaccination?

        ACE, in the context of Covid stands for Angiotensin Converting Enzyme. The ubiquitous cell receptor for this enzyme is where the spike protein of Covid attaches. If anyone knows of any other vaccine that uses such an important cellular receptor to enter the cell, I would love to know!

        The neuro-endocrinologic feedback of the HPA (Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal) axis is complicated. It involves activation of the Renin Angiotensin System, which is coordinated by the kidneys, cardio-vascular system and the central nervous system. Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) removes 2 amino acids from angiotensin I to form biologically active angiotensin II. With a normally functioning HPA, blood pressure is modulated and body fluid volumes are protected–among other important functions

        ACE also stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. Current research invokes how chronic stressors cause “biological weathering” that is associated with chronic health conditions like diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. DNA methylation (which can occur in utero) is invoked in epigenetics.
        Psychosocial stress and epigenetic aging

        1. Kris Alman

          Also see:
          The ACE-2 in COVID-19: Foe or Friend?

          COVID-19 is a rapidly spreading outbreak globally. Emerging evidence demonstrates that older individuals and people with underlying metabolic conditions of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia are at higher risk of morbidity and mortality. The SARS-CoV-2 infects humans through the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE-2) receptor. The ACE-2 receptor is a part of the dual system renin-angiotensin-system (RAS) consisting of ACE-Ang-II-AT1R axis and ACE-2-Ang-(1–7)-Mas axis. In metabolic disorders and with increased age, it is known that there is an upregulation of ACE-Ang-II-AT1R axis with a downregulation of ACE-2-Ang-(1–7)-Mas axis. The activated ACE-Ang-II-AT1R axis leads to pro-inflammatory and pro-fibrotic effects in respiratory system, vascular dysfunction, myocardial fibrosis, nephropathy, and insulin secretory defects with increased insulin resistance. On the other hand, the ACE-2-Ang-(1–7)-Mas axis has anti-inflammatory and antifibrotic effects on the respiratory system and anti-inflammatory, antioxidative stress, and protective effects on vascular function, protects against myocardial fibrosis, nephropathy, pancreatitis, and insulin resistance. In effect, the balance between these two axes may determine the prognosis. The already strained ACE-2-Ang-(1–7)-Mas in metabolic disorders is further stressed due to the use of the ACE-2 by the virus for entry, which affects the prognosis in terms of respiratory compromise. Further evidence needs to be gathered on whether modulation of the renin angiotensin system would be advantageous due to upregulation of Mas activation or harmful due to the concomitant ACE-2 receptor upregulation in the acute management of COVID-19.

      5. Whatdoiknow

        Amen, exactly.
        I know more people who got the vaccine and got serious issues in my entourage than people who got Covid.
        One week after my sister got the vaccine, a normally healthy person in her mid 40 has been having crazy complications, first her leg was kind of paralyzed, Rushed to ER to check for blood clots, now her heart accelerates randomly to 200bpm and every time we have to rush her to ER with no solutions. Foggy brain issues as well. It’s heartbreaking as she has been in this condition for a month, taking beta blockers and nothing else. Doctors also refuse to consider anything to do with the vaccine as they don’t have any solution I guess. Questions asked by doctors go usually like this:
        Did you do anything special in the last month, had a stress or other event?
        No, only took the vaccine. Total silence from the doctor.

    2. Val

      Clear my mind please. If vaccination works, than I don’t understand why vaccinated public worried about unvaccinated group. Just go on with your life and don’t worry about anything. Or you are saying that vaccines do not protect you? Than what the point to have one? I don’t understand.

      1. ghoda

        I believe that they protect you from falling seriously ill(hospitalized) instead on getting mild covid(which I had and ope I dont get it again).

      2. Anders K

        The reason you want as many as possible vaccinated is to prevent the disease from having access to a big pool of people in which it can mutate, as in, prevent an “epsilon” variant.

        Vaccines are, in most cases, not as good for the individual as they are for the whole population. This is why any sensible vaccination policy should be to both reimburse any lost income due to taking the vaccine as well as offering free care due to any complications from it. Ideally the latter should be billed to the vaccine manufacturer- if they want to profit from rapid approval, they should be A-OK with being responsible for any downside, IMHO.

        1. Yves Smith

          That does not appear to be correct. People who are vaccinated are still getting infected. So they are also grounds for mutation. In fact, this tweet with data from Israel showed Covid infections in the same proportion among the vaccinated and unvaccinated:


          GM’s comment:

          It’s not the absolute numbers that are the problem, the proportions are exactly the same in the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, and this is age-matched, so the usual excuse that what is being compared is young unvaccinated vs. old vaccinated (where we do expect more breakthroughs) does not apply.

          That just should not be, unless there is some very strong behavioral difference between the two groups, i.e. the unvaccinated wearing masks and shielding while the vaccinated are out partying maskless in large groups. But there is no reason to think so, the unvaccinated in Israel are unvaccinated mostly for religious reasons, and you can be sure those people are not worried about COVID.

          This is data for only one week so we will wait and see, but it is also what the available data says right now, and it’s not good at all. Really really not good.

          And absolutely puzzling — how can vaccine efficiency go away like that in just a few weeks? There are only two explanations:

          1. New mutations, but as I said, nothing is seen in the data so far, though there is also no sequencing data from the last two weeks

          2. Efficiency declines over time and the decline is not linear but more of a step function of time. But that does not explain it either — they did not just line up everyone and inject them on the same day, it took 3 months to get to the young age groups, and we see the drop off across the board. .

          These vaccines do not achieve sterilizing immunity. That was never expected to be the case for a respiratory virus, although it is possible a nasal vaccine under development might come close to that standard

          1. Kris Alman

            A recent article on this topic.
            Risk of rapid evolutionary escape from biomedical interventions targeting SARS-CoV-2 spike protein
            The spike protein receptor-binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 is the molecular target for many vaccines and antibody-based prophylactics aimed at bringing COVID-19 under control. Such a narrow molecular focus raises the specter of viral immune evasion as a potential failure mode for these biomedical interventions. With the emergence of new strains of SARS-CoV-2 with altered transmissibility and immune evasion potential, a critical question is this: how easily can the virus escape neutralizing antibodies (nAbs) targeting the spike RBD? To answer this question, we combined an analysis of the RBD structure-function with an evolutionary modeling framework. Our structure-function analysis revealed that epitopes for RBD-targeting nAbs overlap one another substantially and can be evaded by escape mutants with ACE2 affinities comparable to the wild type, that are observed in sequence surveillance data and infect cells in vitro. This suggests that the fitness cost of nAb-evading mutations is low. We then used evolutionary modeling to predict the frequency of immune escape before and after the widespread presence of nAbs due to vaccines, passive immunization or natural immunity. Our modeling suggests that SARS-CoV-2 mutants with one or two mildly deleterious mutations are expected to exist in high numbers due to neutral genetic variation, and consequently resistance to vaccines or other prophylactics that rely on one or two antibodies for protection can develop quickly -and repeatedly- under positive selection. Predicted resistance timelines are comparable to those of the decay kinetics of nAbs raised against vaccinal or natural antigens, raising a second potential mechanism for loss of immunity in the population. Strategies for viral elimination should therefore be diversified across molecular targets and therapeutic modalities.

        2. Robin

          You don’t understand the science behind this virus, nor do scientists agree. For example, Italian researchers have discovered that it has a “bacteriophage-like” behaviour in that it can use bacteria as a host and can be found, propagated and extracted from human faecal bacterial cultures.

          This means that it has the potential to mutate in sewers of cities around the world – it does not need human hosts to survive and mutate. It also indicates one reason why anti-bacterial agents like azithromycin and others have shown benefit.

          This finding, if correct, has profound implications for the current basis of vaccines, because the virus may propagate via the human mycobiome instead of, or in addition to, the epithelial cells.


      3. LarryMotuz

        Vaccines provide resistance, not immunity. The mRNA vaccines appear to confer enhanced resistance to Covid variants, but again not immunity. So some of the vaccinated with get it nonetheless, but data so far shows that most of these [again not all] will have less serious cases. Nevertheless, resistance does not mean that all will escape hospitalization or, for that matter, death.

    3. tegnost

      but sometimes you have to step up and do something for the society you live in, no whining, no excuses, no exceptions.

      Tell that to bezos, et. alii….

    4. Grumpy Engineer

      Just take two extremely safe shots“? Oh, how I wish that were true. Several thousand deaths associated with the COVID-19 vaccines have been recorded in the CDC’s VAERS system, whereas the flu vaccine typically kills fewer than 10 people per year. The new vaccines are not low-risk.

      On the other hand, the COVID-19 pathogen itself has caused several hundred thousand deaths, so the vaccine still makes sense, even with the increased risk. Well, on average it does.

      One key thing to note is that the risk of COVID-19 strongly correlates with age. For seniors, COVID is extremely hazardous, and the vaccine is very obviously a good idea. For middle-aged grumps like myself, it’s still a good idea. For younger adults (like college students), though, the risk of the vaccine starts to approach that of the disease itself. And for children, I suspect the vaccine is the greater hazard.

      Another factor is that the vaccines are “non-sterilizing”. You can still get the disease with the vaccine. You can still spread it to others. The main benefit of getting the vaccine is to reduce the risk to yourself.

      So is it really proper for Indiana University to demand that low-risk young adults take an experimental vaccine (still not FDA approved, but being shipping under EUA – emergency use authorization) with a high rate of severe side effects? Especially if the disease could still spread anyway?

      1. Kris Alman

        Not to mention that the asymptomatic and mild cases among the already vaccinated (that the CDC and manufacturers don’t count) could become long haulers.

        CDC reports since April 2021, increased cases of myocarditis and pericarditis have been reported in the United States after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna), particularly in male adolescents and young adults, 16 and older.

        College age.

        And who can predict whether insults and injuries from multiple exposures to the vaccines’ mRNA manufactured spike proteins might be additive (or worse)?

  4. Medbh

    “What we have here is the government forcing you to do something that you strenuously object to and have your body invaded in the process,” said the lawyer, James Bopp Jr.

    He said that the appeal would be paid for by America’s Frontline Doctors, a conservative organization…”

    I hope the next abortion case is composed of the conservative law firms own statements from the anti-vaccination briefs. The irony is killing me.

    1. Synoia

      I believe I also have a right not to be assaulted by others’ knowingly risking me to diseases to which they could transmit.

      1. Blended

        You do realize that even if you have been “vaccinated” for SARS-COV-2, you can still be infected by the virus, and still transmit it to others. Even the vaccine makers have not said that their treatment prevents you from getting infected/transmitting; the only things they have said that these treatments do is to moderate the Covid symptoms that result if you do get infected.

        That’s why I put “vaccine” in quotes. The definition has changed. Previous to 2020, a vaccine absolutely prevented infection and transmission.

        If you are “vaccinated” against SARS-COV-2, but can still transmit, are you in effect also assaulting others?

  5. Eye 65

    Judge got JD from IU.

    Would it be in the public interest if faculty and judges had to keep their BMI in normal range to mitigate the effects of COVID?

  6. mrsyk

    I highly recommend that one and all read IMDoc’s post in the comments from yesterday’s Water Cooler. I’ll quote one bit:
    “ My advice today – DO NOT PLAY INTO THE DIVISIVE UNVACCINATED/VACCINATED GAME – at this point and in the near future – it is going to become increasingly obvious this is just not a hill to die on.”

      1. The Rev Kev

        Same here. I hope that he is taking time out to relax and getting his own health back in order. One of the good ones.

  7. WhatdoIknow

    Poor young people.
    They are being screwed again and again.
    First by shutting down their schools and social life to save some octogenarian so they can continue some more years in their vegetative state, then by taking so much debt to spray money around to everyone but the young for which the young will have to eventually foot the bill and now by forcing them to take an experimental vaccine when we know they are the least affected by the virus.
    This is a crime against youth.
    Their best years of their life when they are healthy, have fun socialization and can enjoy some worry free time are ruined. What selfish monsters have we become?

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