We analyzed pertussis reporting, death, hospitalization, and serodiagnostic data from 1976 to 1998 to help explain the cause of the 1996 pertussis outbreak in the Netherlands. The unexpected outbreak was detected by an increase in pertussis reporting and by other surveillance methods. In 1996, according to reporting and serologic data, the increase in pertussis incidence among (mostly unvaccinated) children less than 1 year of age was similar to the increase in hospital admissions. Among older (mostly vaccinated) persons, the increase in hospital admissions was relatively small. The increase in pertussis incidence was higher among vaccinated than among unvaccinated persons of all ages. This resulted in lower estimates of vaccine effectiveness. The proportion of pertussis infections resulting in recognizable symptoms may have increased among vaccinated persons because of a mismatch of the vaccine strain and circulating Bordetella pertussis strains. The small immunogenicity profile of the Dutch vaccine may have resulted in greater vulnerability to antigenic changes in B. pertussis.