DoD Confirms 5 Measles Cases Among Recent Afghan Arrivals; Flights to U.S. Delayed for Another Week

By Susan Jones | September 14, 2021 | 7:26am EDT
Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., in Chantilly, Va. on August 27, 2021. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., in Chantilly, Va. on August 27, 2021. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

( - A Pentagon spokesman said on Monday it will be at least another week before Afghan evacuees are once again flown to the United States from Europe and the Middle East. The reason -- a measles outbreak.

"Operation Allies Welcome flights into the United States remain paused at the request of the CDC for at least seven additional days from today because of recent diagnosed cases of measles among Afghans who recently arrived in the United States," spokesman John Kirby told a briefing on Monday.

"There have been five diagnosed cases of measles among new arrivals so far, and we are closely monitoring just in case more emerge. We already announced one case that was confirmed last week at Fort McCoy, and three cases were confirmed on Thursday night among new arrivals who flew into Dulles Airport here in the D.C. area, and then one has been found at Fort Pickett.

"They have been housed separately and are receiving medical care, and the CDC is doing contact tracing, and we'll ask people to self-isolate as needed. And obviously, we'll share more information as soon as it becomes available."

Kirby said the military is "taking these cases seriously."

"We're observing all the CDC guidelines that need to be observed, and we'll be working very quickly on the appropriate immunizations. So, we're taking it very seriously and we want -- that's why we're being as transparent as we can about this.

"We want the people who work on these bases and the families who live there to know how seriously we're taking it, and that we are separating these individuals from the rest of the cohort there, and we're doing contact tracing right now so we can get a better sense of this -- of the scope of possible infection."

Kirby told the briefing, "All arriving Afghans are currently required to be vaccinated for measles as a condition of their humanitarian parole, and critical immunizations, including MMR, are being administered for Afghans at safe havens and military bases in the United States. We will soon be vaccinating Afghans for MMR while they are still overseas."

At a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Afghan evacuees get COVID vaccinations in the United States before they are resettled.

No military involvement in evacuations

Kirby said the U.S. military currently has no "active" role in efforts to rescue Americans and Afghan allies still trying to get out of the Taliban-run country:

You've seen some private groups are working towards this, and you probably saw last week, we -- we've announced that we're going to start a more formal process of working with private groups as they continue to find a way out for people.

And of course, you've heard Secretary Blinken at the State Department talk about the continued communication that we have with the Taliban to get people out on charter flights or even on commercial flights as best we can.

So, just as we said before, while the military mission in Afghanistan has ended, the US government mission to help Americans and LPRs and SIV applicants get out of Afghanistan continues. But it doesn't involve an active military component to it.

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