Afghan refugees will be arriving again in the United States later this week after a vaccination campaign against measles following an outbreak that paused transfers from staging areas in Europe and the Middle East.
More than 49,000 Afghan evacuees staying temporarily at military bases in the United States have received vaccinations for measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), as well as varicella (chickenpox), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on October 4.
Thousands of Afghan refugees at staging areas in Europe and the Middle East are also receiving the vaccinations that most Americans get at childhood.
Arriving Afghans must get the MMR, chickenpox, polio, COVID-19, and other age-appropriate vaccinations as a condition for their official permission to enter and remain in the United States.
According to guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Afghans must remain at U.S. military installations for at least 21 days after the MMR vaccine is administered.
About 84 percent of the refugees in the United States and at overseas transit points have now received vaccinations against the coronavirus, according to officials. Everyone coming from Afghanistan is tested for COVID-19.
“The success of this vaccination campaign demonstrates our commitment to the health and well-being of arriving Afghan evacuees, the personnel assisting this mission, and the American people,” said Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, the DHS Chief Medical Officer.
Thousands of Afghans were evacuated as well as U.S. citizens in a two-week operation following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in mid-August.
As Afghan refugees began arriving at bases around Europe and the Middle East, about two dozen cases of measles were identified. Measles is one of the most contagious diseases in the world.
In response, U.S. Customs and Border Protection paused all flights of Afghan refugees around September 10.
DHS said that after the vaccination campaign flights from staging areas will resume this week.
There are about 53,000 Afghans currently staying at eight military bases in the United States and receiving medical care and other assistance before resettlement around the country.
In addition, Afghan evacuees complete a screening and vetting process including biometric and biographic screenings conducted by intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism officials.
With reporting by AP