AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Democrats are calling State House Republicans “anti-vaxxers” in response to a political action committee “dedicated to protecting vaccine choice rights” that supports Republican candidates.

The Texas Democratic Party called the PAC Texans for Vaccine Choice an “anti-science special interest group” that “threatens to worsen and prolong the (COVID-19) pandemic.”

The PAC’s website said it was spurred from a Facebook group that was made about five years ago in response to the Texas House of Representatives filing possible legislation to end religious and philosophical exemptions to recommended public school vaccinations. The website says the PAC is “dedicated to protecting vaccine choice rights by ensuring the issue remains at the forefront of political discourse, promoting incumbents and candidates who strongly support our values, and drafting legislation to further solidify these rights.”

Texas Democrats claim the group has given almost $50,000 to dozens of Republican candidates and endorsed even more candidates than that, including Plano Republican State Reps. Matt Shaheen and Jeff Leach, who are up for reelection this year.

“In the middle of the biggest pandemic in American history, it is unconscionable that Texas Republicans would refuse to mandate vaccines to fight against the coronavirus,” Texas Democratic Party communications director Abhi Rahman said. “Democrats want to stop the spread of coronavirus and end this crisis. Republicans don’t believe in doctors or experts and want to continue to push anti-science policies. That’s the choice in this election.”

Shaheen and Leach told KXAN they just support Texas parents having a choice for their kids.

In a statement, Shaheen, R-Plano, said he “gets a flu shot every year, and while he’s not opposed to the science behind vaccinations, he thinks every Texan should have a choice.”

Leach echoed that sentiment.

“When it comes to vaccinating Texas children, I believe strongly that parents — not politicians — should make the decisions,” Leach, R-Plano, said in a statement.

Shaheen also called the Democrats’ response an effort to politicize a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I wish Texas Democrats would stop politicizing the virus that’s been so devastating to many Texas families and work in a bipartisan fashion to defeat the virus,” he said.