Flights of Afghan evacuees from Ramstein Air Base in Germany to the US resumed Saturday after pausing for weeks due to confirmed cases of measles amongst evacuees.
One flight left the base Saturday with a few hundred evacuees headed for Philadelphia, a spokesman for the 86th Airlift Wing told CNN. Five more flights are expected Sunday, with approximately 1,000 evacuees flying to the US on a daily basis until the entire Afghan population of approximately 9,000 at Ramstein departs.
“We’ve been at this longer than I think anyone anticipated, but we’re glad that we’ll soon complete the mission and get back to normal operations,” said Brigadier General Josh Olson, the commander of the 86th Airlift Wing and Ramstein Air Base. “Our focus now is on finishing strong, bidding our guests farewell, and completing the mission.”
Several cases of measles were discovered among some evacuees who had arrived in the US, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended pausing the flights until the entire evacuee population had received vaccinations against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and other diseases, as well as a 21-day waiting period after the vaccines had been administered.
More than 49,000 Afghan evacuees temporarily staying at military installations in the US have been vaccinated for MMR and varicella (chickenpox). Evacuees are also receiving vaccinations in Europe and the Middle East.
Ramstein became one of the major transit points for Afghans fleeing their home country and making their way to the US. The base was only supposed to house Afghans for 10 days, but had to accommodate the evacuees for weeks as temperatures dropped in Germany.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.