Since the 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23) is less effective for older adults than for young adults, it is important to investigate the immunologic basis for the reduced efficacy of PPV23 among older adults. We determined the effectiveness of PPV23 among young (n = 55) and older (n = 44) adults by measuring the serum IgG, IgM, and IgA concentrations and opsonic capacities against serotypes 14, 18C, and 23F. While young and older adults showed no difference in levels of IgG antibodies against pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPS), older adults had lower IgA and IgM antibody levels than young adults for all three serotypes. In both age groups, anti-PPS IgA or IgM antibody levels were much lower than anti-PPS IgG antibody levels. Young adults showed higher opsonic capacities than older adults for serotypes 14 and 23F. In order to determine the effects of anti-PPS IgA or IgM antibodies on the functional difference between young and older adults, anti-PPS IgA or IgM antibodies were removed from immune sera by affinity chromatography. The difference in opsonic capacity between young and older adults disappeared for serotypes 14 and 23F (but not for serotype 18C) when IgM antibody was removed. However, there was no significant difference between the two age groups when IgA antibody was removed. In conclusion, even though anti-PPS IgG antibody levels are high compared with anti-PPS IgM antibody levels, the low levels of anti-PPS IgM antibody alone can explain the functional difference observed between young and older adults immunized with PPV23 with regard to some pneumococcal serotypes. Copyright © 2011, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.