It is generally thought that during the contraction phase of an acute anti-viral T cell reponse, the effector T cells that escape activation-induced cell death eventually differentiate into central memory T cells over the next several weeks. Here we report that antigen-specific CD8T cells with the phenotype and function of central memory cells develop concomitantly with effector T cells during vaccinia virus (vv) infection. As soon as 5 days after an intraperitoneal infection with vv, we could identify a subset of CD44hi and CD62L+ vv-specific CD8 T cells in the peritoneal exudate lymphocytes. This population constituted approximately 10% of all antigen-specific T cells and like central memory T cells, they also expressed high levels of CCR7 and IL-7R but expressed little granzyme B. Importantly, upon adoptive transfer into naïve congenic hosts, CD62L+, but not CD62L− CD8 T cells were able to expand and mediate a rapid recall response to a new vv challenge initiated 6 weeks after transfer, confirming that the CD62L+ vv-specific CD8 T cells are bonafide memory cells. Our results are thus consistent with the branched differentiation model, where effector and memory cells develop simultaneously. These results are likely to have implications in the context of vaccine design, particularly those based on vaccinia virus recombinants.