In this paper, we review the published evidence about the long-term efficacy of the available human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines and their safety profile. Two prophylactic HPV vaccines - bivalent (bHPV) and quadrivalent (qHPV) - are now available, and vaccination programs are being widely implemented, primarily targeting adolescent girls. Efficacy has been widely demonstrated for both vaccines. Since the risk of HPV exposure potentially persists throughout a woman's sexual life, vaccine duration of protection is critical to overall effectiveness. Interpreting the results of long-term efficacy studies for the two HPV vaccines can be puzzling, due to the heterogeneity of studies, different methods used in the assessment of immunogenicity, histopathological and virological end points, and statistical power issues. Moreover, an immunologic correlate of protection has not yet been established, and it is unknown whether higher antibody levels will really result in a longer duration of protection. Disease prevention remains the most important measure of long-term duration of vaccine efficacy. To date, the longest follow-up of an HPV vaccine has been 9.4 years for the bHPV vaccine. Long-term follow-up for qHPV vaccine goes up to 8 years. The vaccine continues to be immunogenic and well tolerated up to 9 years following vaccination. All randomized controlled clinical trials of the bHPV and the qHPV vaccines provide evidence of an excellent safety profile. The most common complaint reported is pain in the injection site, which is self-limiting and spontaneously resolved. The incidence of systemic adverse events (AEs), serious AEs, and discontinuations due to a serious AE reported in clinical studies are similar between the two vaccines and their control groups. In particular, no increased risk of autoimmune disease has been shown among HPV-vaccinated subjects in long-term observation studies. As these are crucial topics in HPV vaccination, it is important to establish systems for continued monitoring of vaccine immunogenicity, efficacy, and safety over time.
Keywords: HPV vaccines; adverse events; effectiveness.