NEW DELHI: The Health Ministry in coordination with the agencies concerned should assess the requirement of vaccine booster shots to tackle different variants of the coronavirus, a parliamentary committee has recommended.
Taking note of the threat posed by the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs recommended that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in coordination with the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) and the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) should assess the requirement of booster doses in India to address the different variants of the virus.
"The committee would like to know whether any research has been conducted by ICMR and other concerned institutions regarding the efficacy of the vaccines that are being given or administered in the country against various variants," it said in a report tabled in Lok Sabha on Friday.
Underlining that the nature and virulence of COVID-19 pandemic is "unpredictable", the committee cautioned that alertness and preparedness cannot be compromised at any stage.
The committee recommended that the Union Home Ministry may advise the states to not scale down the COVID-19 infrastructure such as testing facility, ICU beds and medical oxygen as the virus may give rise to a third wave without giving sufficient time to react given its deceptive nature and emergence of multiple variants.
"They should be kept in a dormant state so that they can be reactivated to deal with the subsequent wave of the pandemic that might come up," it recommended.
The committee also recommended ramping up the infrastructure for COVID-19 patients in view of the observations of experts and epidemiologists that a possible third wave may target the non-vaccinated population, especially the children.
In its recommendations, the committee also asked the Ministries of Home Affairs and Health to take up the issue of guidelines on fixation of ceiling on price of hospital beds during the pandemic and other public health emergencies.
"Due publicity may be given to these rates so that people are aware of the price of hospital beds and a monitoring mechanism may be created to put a check on black-marketing of essential life saving drugs and selling of hospital beds above ceiling price," it said.
The panel recommended that the Home Ministry and the Health Ministry should issue authorised bulletins on COVID-19 matters through various media in order to avoid panic and confusion among the masses created by different predictions from experts and epidemiologists regarding a possible third wave.