More than 8,000 residents in the eight-county region — including 700 people in Chowan County — received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Albemarle Regional Health Services said Friday.

Meanwhile, ARHS said the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region is approaching 8,000.

Most of those receiving a dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine did so at a free mass vaccination clinic held in each of the eight counties this past week.

ARHS Director Battle Betts said the agency was pleased with the public response and praised local residents for their patience. Many reported waiting in long lines at drive-through clinics on Wednesday or Thursday to receive a dose of the vaccine.

“First and foremost, I want to thank our community for the overwhelming response to the mass COVID-19 vaccine clinics that were held over the last two days across the region, and most importantly your patience,” Betts said in a press release. “Moving to the vaccine response phase is a bright light in this pandemic.”

Health officials have said getting the vaccine will prevent persons from contracting COVID-19.

Betts also thanked local agencies like emergency management, emergency medical services, city and county governments, College of The Albemarle, and area hospitals for their help administering more than 8,000 doses of the vaccine.

“Mass clinics of this size require teamwork at the highest level and I am so proud of the level of commitment from our ARHS family and our community partners,” he said.

Betts reminded those who’ve gotten the vaccine that for it to be effective, they will need to return for a second shot of the same vaccine. That means if they got the Pfizer vaccine, they’ll need a second dose of that vaccine. If they were vaccinated with a Moderna shot, they’ll need a second Moderna shot.

Betts said state health officials continue to recommend first vaccinating health care workers who care for COVID patients, people who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying from COVID, and those at high risk of exposure to the virus. For that reason, ARHS will continue to focus vaccination efforts on health care workers, first responders and persons 75 and older, and then “expanding to frontline essential workers as vaccine supplies allow.”

No one who wanted a vaccine and was willing to wait in line for it, however, appeared to be turned away at this week’s drive-through clinics.

Chowan County Health Department held vaccine clinics Wednesday and Thursday.

Kim Ringeisen, a member of the Edenton Fire Department, got his first vaccine on Thursday.

He said that he got in line around 9 a.m. Those receiving vaccines formed two lines to enter the area where the vaccines were given.

“Well managed, everyone ready to provide guidance, completed paperwork and everyone in line were very orderly,” Ringeisen said. “Just got the vaccine, and currently waiting for release. Overall, well run operation!”

Rae Burroughs Knox and her mother received the vaccine on Wednesday. They got there at 9 a.m. and left around 1:45 p.m., which included a 15 minute wait afterward to make sure there were no side effects.

“Great job in organizing!” she said. “Blessings to the workers in this cold weather outside. Thankful to live in small community. No appointment needed and they are not turning away anyone.”

Larry Ekberg, of Edenton, also received the vaccine Wednesday, along with his 97-year-old father.

“We arrived around 7:45 a.m. and were leaving by 10:33 a.m., which includes the wait time following the shot,” he said. “It was an excellent process, didn’t hurt and no side affects. Well done Chowan Health Department.”

Carolynn O’Kelley, a teacher, said that getting the vaccine was worth the three hour wait. “My peace of mind and mental health are in a much better place because of it.”

Lisa Hoenig Baker said that getting the vaccine took several hours. “It went smoothly and the Health Department employees were helpful, cold and with great attitudes. Cheers to all of them. Thank you.”

Beth Taylor, of Edenton, said it took three hours to get her shot, she praised the Chowan County Health Department.

“It was well planned and they kept everything moving very smoothly,” she said. “I am so relieved to receive the first shot now waiting to get my second shot.”