Houston man hopes to represent his family and Hispanic community in vaccine trial

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Some communities have been hit hard by the virus, especially the Hispanic community. Now, to ensure his community is represented, 35-year-old Juan Antonio Sorto stood up and took part in the Moderna vaccine trial.

"I was born in Dallas but I was raised in El Salvador," said Sorto.

He grew up with a single mom, they moved back to the U.S. and settled in Houston when Juan was around seven.

"Grew up in extreme poverty in El Salvador, came to the United States, grew up in the same poverty, as well. I was partially raised in Kashmere Gardens," he said.

Sorto was a fighter, becoming the first in his family to graduate high school.

"First one in my family to achieve a bachelor's degree, first in my family to achieve a masters and by the end of Summer 2021, I'll be the first one to actually have a Ph.D.," he said.

Every step along the way, he's been working to give back to his community, whether it's tutoring, volunteering or raising awareness about COVID-19.

The Hispanic community has been hit hard by the virus. Of the more than 1,500 COVID-19 deaths in Houston, Hispanics make up more than 55% of the lives lost.

Juan wanted to do his part, so he participated in the Moderna vaccine trial.

"When I walked into that testing center for the first time, I saw people that did not look like me at all. I was kind of hesitant but then, I walked in there and I said, 'This is the right decision that I'm making, not only for myself, my family, but everyone around the world and especially those that don't really have a voice most of the time,'" said Sorto.

A voice for his family even in El Salvador. Every Christmas he visits his grandmother who still lives there.

"I noticed that I wanted to make these trips, not only about spending time with my grandmother, but also bringing some kind of joy to these families in the most neediest part of El Salvador," said Sorto.

He delivers toys to the kids that live in the poor neighborhood where he grew up. While the virus is keeping him from traveling this year, he is giving a gift to his community, one of awareness and hope.

"What I'm counting on is, because I was part of the vaccine studies right, more people will take it. The reason I tell people is, 'What other options do we have at the moment,'" said Sorto.

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