Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) is a major cause of worldwide mortality and morbidity, and to a large extent is vaccine-preventable. Nasopharyngeal carriage of pneumococcus precedes disease and is the source of pneumococcal spread between people. The use of vaccine effect on carriage as part of the vaccine licensure and post-vaccine introduction evaluation could facilitate and expand the licensure of new, life-saving pneumococcal vaccines and enable a comprehensive estimate of population effects after vaccine introduction. The authors provide a review of the evidence supporting pneumococcal carriage at the individual level as an immediate and necessary precursor to pneumococcal disease. Based on such a causal link between carriage and disease, the authors emphasize the role of information on pneumococcal carriage in vaccine trials and in public health decision-making.