COVID-19 patients who undergo surgical procedures face fewer complications if they had received a flu shot, new data shows.

In a preliminary study that has not yet undergone peer review, researchers analyzed outcomes after various types of surgery on nearly 44,000 COVID-19 patients worldwide, half of whom had received a flu vaccine in the previous six months.

In a presentation on Saturday at the annual meeting of the American College of Surgeons, they reported that flu-vaccinated patients had significantly fewer serious blood infections, fewer potentially life-threatening blood clots in their veins, fewer serious wound-healing problems, and fewer heart attacks. The flu vaccine was also linked with lower rates of stroke, pneumonia and death.

The study cannot prove that flu vaccines were protective, and “the flu shot is by no means a substitute for COVID-19 vaccination,” said study leader Susan Taghioff of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida. “We strongly recommend that everyone get both their flu and COVID-19 vaccines this year in accordance with current guidelines.”

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