Current vaccine strategies against influenza focus on generating robust antibody responses. Because of the high degree of antigenic drift among circulating influenza strains over the course of a year, vaccine strains must be reformulated specifically for each influenza season. The time delay from isolating the pandemic strain to large-scale vaccine production would be detrimental in a pandemic situation. A vaccine approach based on cell-mediated immunity that avoids some of these drawbacks is discussed here. Specifically, cell-mediated responses typically focus on peptides from internal influenza proteins, which are far less susceptible to antigenic variation. We review the literature on the role of CD4+ and CD8+ T cell-mediated immunity in influenza infection and the available data on the role of these responses in protection from highly pathogenic influenza infection. We discuss the advantages of developing a vaccine based on cell-mediated immune responses toward highly pathogenic influenza virus and potential problems arising from immune pressure.