Senior administration officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing deliberations on the evacuation process. The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Pentagon made no comment. The National Security Council referred POLITICO to comments made by the deputy press secretary of the White House, Karine Jean-Pierre.
Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday that the administration would suspend flights for “at least seven more days.” But senior administration officials who spoke to POLITICO said they were preparing to suspend flights for longer, stressing how long it would take to vaccinate thousands of people and for immunity to build.
“All Afghans who arrive must currently be vaccinated against measles as a condition of their humanitarian parole and critical vaccinations,” Jean-Pierre said on Monday.
Measles is extremely contagious, according to CDC data. About 90 percent of people who are not vaccinated will contract the virus. Immunization rates in Afghanistan are notoriously low.
Although senior health officials are concerned about the risk of more people testing positive, there are currently no reported cases at the Ramstein base, said a senior administration official with direct knowledge of the question. It is not known if there are other cases in Qatar, this person said.
According to the World Health Organization, a measles outbreak is defined as two or more laboratory-confirmed cases that are “temporally related” or whose dates of rash onset begin seven to 23 days apart. . An outbreak is considered over when there are no linked cases for 46 days from the onset of the last case.
The delay would extend the time evacuees would need to stay at U.S. military bases, where overcrowded conditions worsen week by week, according to two other people helping with the U.S. evacuation response overseas.
The United States is also examining Afghan evacuees for Covid-19 at its national and international bases. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has also set up a mass vaccination site for refugees at Dulles Airport outside of Washington, DC.