Recent clinical trials have demonstrated that new generation acellular pertussis vaccines can confer protection against whooping cough. However, the mechanism of protective immunity against Bordetella pertussis infection induced by vaccination remains to be defined. We have examined cellular immune responses in children immunized with a range of acellular and whole cell pertussis vaccines. Immunization of children with a potent whole-cell vaccine induced B. pertussis-specific T cells that secreted interferon-γ (IFN-γ), but not interleukin-5 (IL-5). In contrast, T cells from children immunized with acellular pertussis vaccines secreted IFN-γ and/or IL-5 following stimulation with B. pertussis antigens in vitro. These observations suggest that protective immunity conferred by whole-cell vaccines, like natural immunity, is mediated by type 1 T cells, whereas the mechanism of immune protection generated with acellular vaccines may be more heterogenous, involving T cells that secreted type 1 and type 2 cytokines.