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Ellensburg doctor restricted from issuing COVID-19 vaccine exemptions after KING 5 investigation

Ellensburg physician Anna Elperin is under investigation for allegedly issuing vaccine exemptions to patients without justification.

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — An Ellensburg physician who was at the center of a KING 5 investigation for selling COVID-19 vaccine exemptions without medical justification, has been restricted from issuing the medical vaccine waivers, according to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). 

State health officials announced Wednesday that they restricted Dr. Anna Elperin's osteopathic physician's license after she allegedly signed waivers for four first-time patients in late August "without charting or specifying a medical condition to justify the exemption." 

The patients included a Central Washington University employee, a Kittitas Valley healthcare worker, a Mount Vernon School District employee and a 30-year-old whose occupation is unknown, according to state disciplinary records. 

"(Elperin) misled the patients' employers and the public," reads the Dec. 22 statement of charges from the DOH Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery. 

The disciplinary action against Elperin follows a November KING 5 investigation, which revealed she repeatedly signed and sold mask and COVID vaccine exemptions to residents across Washington state, in some cases with no questions asked. 

Elperin issued mask and vaccine exemptions to four undercover KING 5 journalists throughout the fall, without asking if they had a qualifying medical condition that precludes them from getting the vaccine, in exchange for a cash fee. 

The doctor also wrote exemptions for other patients who did not provide a legitimate medical reason to receive one, including people who sought to evade local and state pandemic-related mandates.

Credit: KING 5
Four undercover journalists received COVID-19 vaccine and mask exemptions from Dr. Anna Elperin, owner of Awake Health in Ellensburg.

Charging each patient from $150 to $200 for the forms, Elperin potentially raked in tens of thousands of dollars from medical exemption sales a month and profited from state, local and private company policies intended to reduce the spread of coronavirus, the KING 5 investigation found.  

Elperin has 20 days to contest the charges with the state, according to DOH. 

When confronted in November about the medical exemptions she signed and sold to KING 5’s undercover journalists, Elperin unequivocally denied that she is running an “exemption mill.” 

Following her license restriction, on Dec. 29, Elperin issued a statement to KING 5. 

"Medical Freedom from experimental vaccines is still a Constitutional right of every American," she wrote in an e-mail. 

Credit: KING 5
A KING 5 hidden camera captures Dr. Anna Elperin, owner of Awake Health, signing COVID-19 vaccine and mask exemptions for an undercover journalist on Oct. 29, 2021 in Ellensburg.

Katie Pope, a DOH spokesperson, said the public health agency has two active investigations involving Elperin. The doctor's license restriction is an initial step in a lengthy disciplinary process that could continue for months, she said.

DOH has reviewed at least 12 mostly COVID-related complaints against Elperin since July 2020, according to agency records. The department closed 10 of them without action.

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) is also investigating the doctor. In late November, L&I opened an investigation into Elperin's functional medical practice, Awake Health, in response to KING 5's reporting.

Elperin is the second medical professional in the state to face discipline for COVID-related reasons since the start of the pandemic. State records show at least 104 medical doctors, physicians assistants, and osteopathic physicians have received COVID-related complaints against them.