Background Antigenic variation of influenza virus necessitates annual reformulation of seasonal influenza vaccines, which contain two type A strains (H1N1 and H3N2) and one type B strain. We used a test negative case control design to estimate influenza vaccine effectiveness (VE) against influenza by type and subtype over two consecutive seasons in Victoria, Australia. Methods Patients presenting with influenza-like illness to general practitioners (GPs) in a sentinel surveillance network during 2007 and 2008 were tested for influenza. Cases tested positive for influenza by polymerase chain reaction and controls tested negative for influenza. Vaccination status was recorded by sentinel GPs. Vaccine effectiveness was calculated as [(1 - adjusted odds ratio) × 100%]. Results There were 386 eligible study participants in 2007 of whom 50% were influenza positive and 19% were vaccinated. In 2008 there were 330 eligible study participants of whom 32% were influenza positive and 17% were vaccinated. Adjusted VE against A/H3N2 influenza in 2007 was 68% (95% CI, 32 to 85%) but VE against A/H1N1 (27%; 95% CI, -92 to 72%) and B (84%; 95% CI, -2 to 98%) were not statistically significant. In 2008, the adjusted VE estimate was positive against type B influenza (49%) but negative for A/H1N1 (-88%) and A/H3N2 (-66%); none was statistically significant. Conclusions Type- and subtype-specific assessment of influenza VE is needed to identify variations that cannot be differentiated from a measure of VE against all influenza. Type- and subtype-specific influenza VE estimates in Victoria in 2007 and 2008 were generally consistent with strain circulation data.