Influenza vaccine effectiveness (VE) wanes over the course of a temperate climate winter season but little data are available from tropical countries with year-round influenza virus activity. In Singapore, a retrospective cohort study of adults vaccinated from 2013 to 2017 was conducted. Influenza vaccine failure was defined as hospital admission with polymerase chain reaction-confirmed influenza infection 2–49 weeks after vaccination. Relative VE was calculated by splitting the follow-up period into 8-week episodes (Lexis expansion) and the odds of influenza infection in the first 8-week period after vaccination (weeks 2–9) compared with subsequent 8-week periods using multivariable logistic regression adjusting for patient factors and influenza virus activity. Records of 19 298 influenza vaccinations were analysed with 617 (3.2%) influenza infections. Relative VE was stable for the first 26 weeks post-vaccination, but then declined for all three influenza types/subtypes to 69% at weeks 42–49 (95% confidence interval (CI) 52–92%, P = 0.011). VE declined fastest in older adults, in individuals with chronic pulmonary disease and in those who had been previously vaccinated within the last 2 years. Vaccine failure was significantly associated with a change in recommended vaccine strains between vaccination and observation period (adjusted odds ratio 1.26, 95% CI 1.06–1.50, P = 0.010).