Naturally acquired immunity to the blood-stage of the malaria parasite develops slowly in areas of high endemicity, but is not sterilizing. It manifests as a reduction in parasite density and clinical symptoms. Immunity as a result of blood-stage vaccination has not yet been achieved in humans, although there are many animal models where vaccination has been successful. The development of a blood-stage vaccine has been complicated by a number of factors including limited knowledge of human-parasite interactions and which antigens and immune responses are critical for protection. Opinion is divided as to whether this vaccine should aim to accelerate the acquisition of responses acquired following natural exposure, or whether it should induce a different response. Animal and experimental human models suggest that cell-mediated immune responses can control parasite growth, but these responses can also contribute to significant immunopathology if unregulated. They are largely ignored in most blood-stage malaria vaccine development strategies. Here, we discuss key observations relating to cell-mediated immune responses in the context of experimental human systems and field studies involving naturally exposed individuals and how this may inform the development of a blood-stage malaria vaccine.