COVID-19 Vaccine Statement

Wendy Chung, M.D., Ph.D., Principal Investigator of Simons Searchlight
Date Published: August 26, 2021
Revised: September 1, 2021

The COVID-19 Delta variant is spreading worldwide, and with this variant, there is an increase in cases of children infected. With the expected upcoming availability of COVID-19 vaccines for children under 12, I have received questions about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines from the neurodevelopmental and rare disease community. 

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

The association between inflammation of the heart muscle and COVID-19 mRNA vaccines in children and younger adults is carefully monitored by the medical community. It is important to remember that most reported events tend to be mild, do not usually need treatment and resolve themselves. At this time, the potential risks of the vaccine are outweighed by the well-defined risks of COVID-19 infection.

More information can be found in this webinar hosted by the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). Members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) cover many questions, including vaccine effectiveness among immunocompromised people and the future need for booster shots. 

Also, if you were wondering about how others in the Simons Searchlight community were feeling about the COVID-19 vaccine, we have summarized the results of our recent COVID-19 survey. If you have any questions or comments, please contact a member of 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

  • Aug 2021 – Patient-reported safety and tolerability of the COVID-19 vaccines in persons with rare neuroimmunological diseases
  • Aug 2021Myocarditis 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 2021PEG/Polysorbate Skin Testing Has No Utility in the Assessment of Suspected Allergic Reactions to SARS-CoV-2 Vaccines
  • July 2021Perimyocarditis 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.