Afghan evacuation flights to US remain paused indefinitely due to measles

Afghan evacuation flights to US remain paused indefinitely due to measles
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The Biden administration added another case to the small outbreak of measles responsible for temporarily halting flights of Afghan evacuees to the U.S., leaving thousands waiting in bases abroad until they can resume operations.

“Out of an abundance of caution and pursuant to CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance, we have recently temporarily paused flights coming to the United States because of six diagnosed cases of measles among Afghan nationals who recently arrived in the United States,” a senior administration official said on a call with reporters.

“We're approaching this situation with the utmost caution and care, as we have the responsibility to ensure the health and well-being of every person who is part of this mission,” the official said, referring to a group that includes Afghans as well as government employees.

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The Associated Press first reported on Friday that the U.S. had halted flights of evacuees into the U.S. after confirming a few measles cases among a group that had just landed on U.S. soil.

“When the first confirmed case came back, we took measures to stop the flights. This helped us then be able to contact trace, to put measures in place to isolate individuals,” the official said.

But it’s unclear how long the small outbreak will keep the flights grounded, leaving Afghan evacuees scattered by the thousands at bases across the globe.

The official said the government is now in the process of vaccinating all evacuees with measles, mumps and rubella vaccines as well as varicella vaccines to protect against chicken pox.

The official said the CDC recently handed down “guidance to us on length of time that we need to continue to isolate them so that allows sufficient time for the vaccine to become effective.”

The official said those arriving are also tested for COVID-19, “with less than a 1 percent positive rate thus far.”