Vaccinia virus (VACV) was used as the vaccine strain to eradicate smallpox. VACV is still administered to healthcare workers or researchers who are at risk of contracting the virus, and to military personnel. Thus, VACV represents a weapon against outbreaks, both natural (e.g., monkeypox) or man-made (bioterror). This virus is also used as a vector for experimental vaccine development (cancer/infectious disease). As a prototypic poxvirus, VACV is a model system for studying host-pathogen interactions. Until recently, little was known about the targets of host immune responses, which was likely owing to VACVs large genome (>200 open reading frames). However, the last few years have witnessed an explosion of data, and VACV has quickly become a useful model to study adaptive immune responses. This review summarizes and highlights key findings based on identification of VACV antigens targeted by the immune system (CD4, CD8 and antibodies) and the complex interplay between responses.