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Doctors are relying more on monoclonal antibodies to fight COVID — but not everyone can receive the therapy

COVID treatment called possible lifesaver
Monoclonal antibody treatment could be a lifesaver for some COVID patients 03:39

Doctors across the United States are relying more on monoclonal antibodies as a powerful weapon against COVID-19. The lab-grown proteins help the body target and eliminate a COVID infection.

According to  Dr. Thomas Gullatt, the chief medical officer at St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, Louisiana, they've become one of the center's most effective therapies. "It's done a great job of helping high-risk patients stay out of the hospital," Gullatt told CBS News' David Begnaud.

The therapy is becoming more available at hospitals and clinics across the country. Since July 1, Gullatt said St. Francis Medical Center has given about 1,700 doses. But not everyone can receive the therapy — it is only administered after infection, within ten days of the first symptoms, and before they get too severe.

Gullatt said that if a patient is "having profound oxygen requirements, continued high-grade fevers and dehydration," they are considered too sick to receive the monoclonal antibodies.

The latest figures show that fewer COVID patients are being admitted into Lousiana hospitals as compared to two weeks ago. But there are also more than 3,000 still in the hospital with COVID.

One of those patients is 42-year-old Scotty Johnson. He received the monoclonal antibodies with a one-time intravenous infusion three weeks ago as COVID was attacking his body.

"It feels like somebody's choking you. You start coughing, but nothing comes out," said Johnson.

He and his wife, Meg, both received the antibody treatments at the same time. For Scotty, he started to feel better within days.

"I just really started feeling good about three or four days ago, probably, but I feel like I'm like 90% now," Johnson said.

Scotty was unvaccinated, while Meg received a COVID vaccine. Johnson said his wife suffered no symptoms and was back to normal day-to-day activities shortly after.

"My wife got the antibody treatment on Thursday. I tested positive on Friday. On Saturday, she was back up cleaning the house and doing dishes and like it never even bothered her," Johnson recalled.

While antibody treatments can be very effective, doctors say they're not a substitute for vaccines —something Johnson said he has now learned first-hand. He said he now plans on getting vaccinated.

"My wife was vaccinated. I wasn't. She stayed sick for two days. I stayed sick for ten, and it was miserable. Absolutely miserable," he said.

Monoclonal antibodies typically cost more than $1,000 per dose, but governments buy them and send them to hospitals and clinics so people can get them at little to no cost. However, supply is limited, and depending on the location, it might not be that easy to get.

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