Following the global spread of pandemic influenza A(H1N1)2009, several pandemic vaccines have been rapidly developed. The United Kingdom and many other countries in the northern hemisphere implemented seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccine programmes in October 2009. We present the results of a case–control study to estimate effectiveness of such vaccines in preventing confirmed pandemic influenza infection. Some 5,982 individuals with influenza-like illness seen in general practices between November 2009 and January 2010 were enrolled. Those testing positive on PCR for pandemic influenza were assigned as cases and those testing negative as controls. Vaccine effectiveness was estimated as the relative reduction in odds of confirmed infection between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Fourteen or more days after immunisation with the pandemic vaccine, adjusted vaccine effectiveness (VE) was 72% (95% confidence interval (CI): 21% to 90%). If protection was assumed to start after seven or more days, the adjusted VE was 71% (95% CI: 37% to 87%). Pandemic influenza vaccine was highly effective in preventing confirmed infection with pandemic influenza A(H1N1)2009 from one week after vaccination. No evidence of effectiveness against pandemic influenza A(H1N1)2009 was found for the 2009/10 trivalent seasonal influenza vaccine (adjusted VE of -30% (95% CI: -89% to 11%)).