COVID-19 Vaccine Statement

Wendy Chung, M.D., Ph.D., Principal Investigator of Simons Searchlight
Date Published: August 26, 2021
Revised: December 3, 2021

As COVID-19 continues to spread worldwide, it is important to stay informed of updated information and recommendations.

People with rare neurodevelopmental disorders have not been found to have more side effects from COVID-19 vaccines than the general population.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 and associated serious illnesses.  Vaccination helps to prevent severe sickness with infection, reduce the spread of the virus, and protect family and community members, including those not eligible for vaccination and those at an increased risk of getting very sick if infected. At this time, the benefits of vaccination to reduce the severity of COVID-19 infection outweigh any small risks associated with vaccination.

As of November 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States recommends that everyone age 5 years and older get a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect against infection. In addition, the CDC recommends that anyone 18 and older may get a vaccine booster.

More information can be found in this June 2021 webinar hosted by the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). Members of the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cover many questions, including vaccine effectiveness among immunocompromised people and the need for booster shots.

Also, if you were wondering how others in the Simons Searchlight community feel about the COVID-19 vaccine, we have summarized the results in this COVID-19 survey from earlier this spring. If you have any questions or comments, please contact the Simons Searchlight team by email at

As always, when making a decision to vaccinate your child or dependent for COVID-19, please consult with your medical provider.


Wendy Chung, M.D., Ph.D.
Principal Investigator, Simons Searchlight

About this Statement

Dr. Chung has no conflicts of interest regarding COVID-19 vaccines or anything COVID-19 related. Dr. Chung has expertise on a range of rare genetic conditions that cause neurodevelopment conditions.

This statement was based on the current research of the COVID vaccine in children with neurodevelopment disorders and rare genetic conditions in which there are no known contraindications. This statement is aligned with similar statements from other organizations including the National Organization for Rare Disorders and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Sources and Citations

Statements from organizations for the rare neurodevelopmental community: 

Publications summary:

  • November 2021 – The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ interim recommendation for use of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in children aged 5-11 years – United States, November 2021
  • November 2021 – Evaluation of the BNT162b2 COVID-19 vaccine in children 5 to 11 years of age
  • November 2021 – COVID-19 vaccines in children and adolescents
  • November 2021 – The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ interim recommendations for additional primary and booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines – United States, 2021
  • Aug 2021 – Patient-reported safety and tolerability of the COVID-19 vaccines in persons with rare neuroimmunological diseases
  • Aug 2021 – Myocarditis and Pericarditis following COVID-19 mRNA Vaccination: Practical Considerations for Care Providers
  • Aug 2021 – COVID-19 Vaccine Safety in Adolescents Aged 12-17 Years – United States, December 14, 2020-July 16, 2021 
  • July 2021 – COVID-19 and Vaccination in the Setting of Neurologic Disease: An Emerging Issue in Neurology
  • July 2021 – PEG/Polysorbate Skin Testing Has No Utility in the Assessment of Suspected Allergic Reactions to SARS-CoV-2 Vaccines
  • July 2021 – Perimyocarditis in Adolescents After Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine
  • July 2021 – Development of a Codebook of Online Anti-Vaccination Rhetoric to Manage COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation
  • Preprint April 2021 – Characterizing the incidence of adverse events of special interest for COVID-19 vaccines across eight countries: a multinational network cohort study

About Wendy Chung, M.D., Ph.D.

Wendy Chung is director of clinical research at SFARI (Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative) and the principal investigator of Simons Searchlight and SPARK. She joined the foundation in 2012, after serving on the SFARI’s Scientific Advisory Board. Her role includes managing the research program in individuals with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, evaluating opportunities to develop new treatments including medications such as arbaclofen, and developing novel outcome measures to evaluate the efficacy of these treatments. She is involved in identifying novel genes for autism and characterizing the clinical features associated with these novel genes.  Chung delivered a TED Talk, “What We Know About Autism.”

Chung earned her undergraduate degree in biochemistry and economics from Cornell University, her M.D. from Cornell University Medical College and her Ph.D. from the Rockefeller University in human genetics. She completed her residency in pediatrics and fellowships in medical and molecular genetics at Columbia University. Chung is also the Kennedy Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at Columbia University, where she directs the clinical genetics program and performs human genetics research.