The effectiveness of influenza vaccination programmes is seldom known during an epidemic. We developed an internet-based system to record influenza-like symptoms and response to infection in a participating cohort. Using self-reports of influenza-like symptoms and of influenza vaccine history and uptake, we estimated vaccine effectiveness (VE) without the need for individuals to seek healthcare. We found that vaccination with the 2010 seasonal influenza vaccine was significantly protective against influenza-like illness (ILI) during the 2010–2011 influenza season (VE 52%, 95% CI 27–68). VE for individuals who received both the 2010 seasonal and 2009 pandemic influenza vaccines was 59% (95% CI 27–77), slightly higher than VE for those vaccinated in 2010 alone (VE 46%, 95% CI 9–68). Vaccinated individuals with ILI reported taking less time off work than unvaccinated individuals with ILI (3·4 days vs. 5·3 days, P<0·001).