A progressive wealth tax on the world’s richest individuals could pay for every person on the planet to be fully vaccinated, and lift a swathe of its population above the poverty line, according to a group of researchers. 

Taxation would start at a rate of 2% on wealth over $5 million and progress to 5% on wealth over $1 billion, generating $2.52 trillion -- enough to cover the cost of two inoculations and a booster for the world’s estimated 8 billion people several times over, according to analysis on 66 countries by Fight Inequality Alliance, Institute for Policy Studies, Oxfam and Patriotic Millionaires.  

In December only 4% of people in low-income countries were vaccinated, data from the World Bank show, compared to more than 80% of people in countries like the U.K. who’ve had both doses. This matters not only because the unvaccinated are more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill, but also because it creates more opportunities for the virus to mutate.

And while some nations are struggling to administer vaccines and recover from the twin blows to their economy and public health, wealthier ones are moving on to boosters. 

Even within wealthier countries like Britain, there’s concern about the inequality laid bare by the pandemic, as minority communities were shown to suffer disproportionately and everyday living costs such as heating eat up the budgets of lower-income households.

The record surge in the share of global wealth held by billionaires during the pandemic, boosted by soaring asset and stock prices, fueled a debate about who helps to pay for such a crisis. 

The funds from the wealth tax could also pay for universal social protection and healthcare for low and lower middle-income countries, estimated to cost $440.8 billion, and lift over 2 billion people out of poverty, according to the report.  

“The situation is critical for so many in both rich and poor countries,” said Jenny Ricks, Global Convenor at Fight Inequality Alliance. The “virus has laid bare a broken system that forces us to choose between healthcare and the environment, between heating and eating, between affordable housing and a living wage.”

--With assistance from Olivia Konotey-Ahulu.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.