Pneumococcal vaccine development is driven by the achievement of high activity in a single gatekeeper assay: the bacterial opsonophagocytic killing (OPK) assay. New evidence challenges the dogma that anti-capsular antibodies have only a single function that predicts success. The emerging concept of multi-modal protection presents an array of questions that are fundamental to adopting a new vaccine design process. If antibodies have hidden non-opsonic functions that are protective, should these be optimized for better vaccines? What would protein antigens add to protective activity? Are cellular immune functions additive to antibodies for success? Do different organs benefit from different modes of protection? Can vaccine activities beyond OPK protect the immunocompromised host? This commentary raises these issues at a time when capsule-only OPK assay-based vaccines are increasingly seen as a limiting strategy.