The Miami cardiologist has spent the past 16 months separating pandemic facts from fiction for the Hispanic community — and is now focused on getting more people vaccinated

May 13, 2021 11:20 AM
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juan rivera
Credit: omar cruz

Miami cardiologist and internist Dr. Juan Rivera hasn't slept much since the waning days of January 2020 when he first learned about the COVID pandemic spreading across Asia and Europe — and quickly understood that he needed to do something about it.

"I recognized that I had a responsibility to the Hispanic community to inform them about what was about to happen," Rivera, 42, tells PEOPLE in a story in this week's magazine.

"To a certain extent, I knew that I was going to have to become the 'translator in chief' for the community because no one else was really speaking to this population."

Since then, Rivera has made hundreds of appearances on the Univision TV network — and reached out to millions through social media — in an effort to help Spanish speakers separate fact from fiction about the pandemic.

Now, the Puerto Rican-born Rivera is focused on getting the word out about the COVID vaccine and why this community — which has been so hard hit by the pandemic — should get it.

"Vaccines are the best tool we have to getting back to a new normal," says the married (for 20 years) father of three.

"And we need this community to get the vaccine, but there's a significant lack of trust between them and the government."

Rivera knows he's got his work cut out for him, citing lack of access to the vaccine, fear of deportation and misinformation "from the wrong sites and sources."

This would explain Rivera's hectic schedule, which involves appearing on Univision seven times a day and posting around-the-clock updates on his social media, with the help of his tech savvy oldest daughter Ana Sofia Fernandez, 27.

"I could be in my pajamas and I'll still create a video," says Rivera. "All I want to do is deliver this information quickly, in a responsible way. I don't want my community to be out of the loop."

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And they won't be, insists Rivera, who knows he can catch up on his sleep once the pandemic is finally behind us. 

"I know that one day in the future," he says, "I'm going to look back and wonder, 'How did I do all that?'"

For more of Juan Rivera's story, pick up a copy of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.