Vaccination can prevent viral infections via virus-specific T cells, among other mechanisms. A goal of oncolytic virotherapy is replication of oncolytic viruses (OVs) in tumors, so pre-existing T cell immunity against an OV-encoded transgene would seem counterproductive. We developed a treatment for melanomas by pre-vaccinating against an oncolytic vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV)-encoded tumor antigen. Surprisingly, when the VSV-vectored booster vaccine was administered at the peak of the primary effector T cell response, oncolysis was not abrogated. We sought to determine how oncolysis was retained during a robust T cell response against the VSV-encoded transgene product. A murine melanoma model was used to identify two mechanisms that enable this phenomenon. First, tumor-infiltrating T cells had reduced cytopathic potential due to immunosuppression. Second, virus-induced lymphopenia acutely removed virus-specific T cells from tumors. These mechanisms provide a window of opportunity for replication of oncolytic VSV and rationale for a paradigm change in oncolytic virotherapy, whereby immune responses could be intentionally induced against a VSV-encoded melanoma-associated antigen to improve safety without abrogating oncolysis.